In The Night Garden: 10 things we’re all thinking (aren’t we?)

Last year I wrote a post about the weirdness of In the Night Garden. Now I hear that bloody BuzzFeed have jumped on the band wagon. Well, you feeders of buzz, I’m hear to tell you that, whilst it is mind bogglingly odd, ITNG is certainly not “a surrealist orgy of sex and death”, come on people, we have to draw the line somewhere! So, Dear Reader, here’s my post (below in all it’s original glory) and here’s the one from BuzzFeed.

But which is better? There’s only one way to find out. FIGHT!

The (mal)Contented Mother

The most bizarre family photo ever? The most bizarre family photo ever?

I don’t about you, but in our household each day is rounded off by sitting down to watch the much loved, and frankly bizarre, children’s TV phenomenon that is In the Night Garden. Most of the time I find it oddly charming. In fact, I am generally ever-indebted to CBeebies for providing a stream of ad-free, colourful programmes that are educational and socially aware enough to ease the guilt I feel when plonking Bubs down in front of the TV. However, after 6+ months of watching an episode almost every evening there a few things I need to get off my chest. So here goes:

1) Tombliboo music is THE WORST.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but In The Night Garden is musically quite clever. All of the characters have their own song, which becomes a motif that follows them through the entire programme. Plus the…

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Sex A.D. (After Delivery)

so hot right now

Have you had a baby in the past few years? If so, how long after the birth did a midwife start talking to you about when you could/couldn’t have sex? I think I got about 24 hours before someone asked “Now, have you thought about contraception?” I think I answered, probably with something like “Erm, no, erm…*adjusts small person attempting to breast feed*”. A more genuine response would have been  “Have I thought about contraception? HAVE I THOUGHT ABOUT CONTRACEPTION? And frickin’ kidding me??”

Yes, I am aware that it is very responsible for hospitals to explain to women that they could potentially become pregnant straight away and that breast-feeding is not a guarantee against baby number two popping up on a scan in 12 week’s time (was that a collective shudder I just heard?). But, seriously, 24 hours after Bubs was born a more pertinent question would have been “do you think you’ll consider ever having sex again, ever in your entire life?” Because, let’s face it ladies, there’s nothing about pushing out a tiny human that makes you wanna welcome a fella into your lady garden any time soon, now is there?

Weirdly, though, I have heard stories from multiple midwives about couples being caught ‘at it’ on the post-natal ward. Yep, that’s right, on a ward, behind those flimsy blue curtains. And they say romance is dead! All I can think when I hear about this is “WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?” I mean, forget the psychological element, my first day of motherhood saw me walking around with a bag of my own pee. It’s just not practical, now is it?

Next time I had ‘the talk’ it was when I was being discharged by the community midwives. Same question again: “Have you thought about contraception?” I think I laughed this time. She was well aware that I had infected stitches (over-sharing?) and a particularly screamy baby. We both knew that this was a box-ticking exercise. (no, I did not intend that to sound like a joke from a carry-on film).

Actually, due to the afore mentioned stitches, I was also advised to wait until they had healed before resuming bedroom antics. And, you know, I was pretty okay with that. A lot of my friends had assisted births or caesareans and so were in the same boat. I’m pretty sure none of us minded putting off the hanky panky. At all.

Now, my friends and I don’t actually talk about our sex-lives; come on people, this isn’t Sex in the City. Still, every now and again one of use would hint at their, shall we say, lack of enthusiasm and we’d all laugh knowingly, then move on to more talk of puke, dribble-bibs or other such highbrow subjects.

Depending on your experience of labour (I haven’t met anyone who loved it yet, tbh), I’d say there is a sliding scale of how weirded out you feel by your body A.D. (After Delivery) It goes from, well-that-was-super-intense to oh-my-freakin-days-whose-boobs-are-these to AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH. Many of us spend a good few months (longer?) feeling our bodies are not our own. So it’s no wonder we aren’t feeling that up for it.

And must give a shout-out to the partners here too. Watching your loved-one give birth may be awe-inspiring but I imagine it is also pretty darn gross! I saw Robbie Williams on the Graham Norton show a while ago and he said “it’s like watching your favourite pub burn down.” Now, obviously Robbie Williams is a dick who prefers to live tweet his wife’s labour than, you know, actually be there for her, but I think he’s probably illustrating a wider issue. I mean, once you’ve seen that you can’t un-see it. Ever.

But I haven’t even got to the best part yet. The most effective form of contraception that arrives after the birth of your first child: That’s right folks, it’s your first child!

bubs CRYING b&W

Screaming babies: nature’s contraceptive.

 

A little baby sleeping inches from you bed, or indeed in it, every night isn’t exactly an aphrodisiac. In fact, let me rephrase that. A little baby not sleeping inches from your bed every night; that’s the real kicker. When our little ones do eventually drop off at 1am after hours of coaxing and rocking, our priorities tend to be capitalising on a two-hour window for sleep, not having a quicky.

This is all perfectly reasonable, but after a while, if we’re not careful, the guilt starts to creep in. However feminist you think you are, there’s probably some 1940s-BBC-RP voice in the back of your mind shouting “Women of Britain: Do you duty!” It’s nonsense of course. Your duty is to look after yourself and your baby and, hopefully, stay sane in the process. Any partner who doesn’t understand that needs a punch up the bracket I say!

Looking at the NHS website, though, it would seem some women do feel rushed into sex before they’re ready. Why else would the page on episiotomies feature sentences like “If sex hurts, it won’t be pleasurable”, well, that isn’t something that should need saying! Even more worryingly it goes on “If penetration is painful, say so.” I mean, bloody right you should say so, but I would hope the bloke would notice too!!

So, just in case there is anyone reading this post who hasn’t read the NHS website or had other women to talk to, I just need to let you know a few things:

If you don’t feel like having sex after your baby is first born, then don’t worry THAT’S NORMAL. Still feel the same two months later? That is ALSO NORMAL! Still feel like it after a year? Well, to I’m sure that’s pretty normal too, but you might wanna talk to your partner (or someone else) about it, because if sex was fun B.C. (before children) then surely it can be fun A.D.  (It can be, don’t ask me how I know, my parents might read this).

But, basically, your body, which by the way has produced an actual human being, should be respected and given the time it needs to heal. So should your mind for that matter. It seems weird that this is a thing that even needs to be said in 2015, but it probably does, so I’m saying it.

 

What’s your experience? Has labour put you off sex for life? Or maybe you were the ones getting jiggy on the post-natal ward? Whatever you think do get involved by commenting below!

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I’m a mother, not a martyr!

Earlier this week I wrote a post on housework, perhaps you saw it? Like most of my posts it was 90% sarcastic ran, but at one point I got all, like, deep and reflected that it was my feelings of obligation and guilt around it that were the real problem, rather than the actual chores themselves. It’s like, does the floor need sweeping? Then sweep it. It doesn’t have to be an existential crisis woman! I also mentioned how my Hubs does the majority of the washing and is generally very nice and supportive and all the pressure comes from me and the Evil Patriarchy.

So, after writing this post, which many of you seem to have related to (cheers for the comments my dears), did I spend the rest of the week in a spirit of productive yet gentle self-awareness? Was I kind to myself, doing what I could and not giving myself a hard time when the house was still covered in crumbs and bits of squashed banana? Was I heck! Instead I seem to have set out to prove that I am, in fact, the domestic goddess I’ve been aspiring to all along. #denial Continue reading

Speaking of housework… #WickedWednesdays

Whether or not you feel a guilt-inducing obligation to do the housework due to your own indoctrination by the patriarchy, the chores have gotta get done. That, however, is difficult with a toddling person around. If they don’t want to be played with or picked up, then they inevitably decide to follow you around attempting to eat all of the crumbs and fluff and dust you’re attempting to sweep up. *gag*. So what to do?

This household’s ‘life hack’ (does anyone else detest that phrase?) is to pop Bubs into our hiking baby ruck sack – Yes, we’re that kind of family #NationalTrustForLifeBitches – This usually works a treat as he’s close to you, but not close enough to snatch the anti-bacterial spray from your hands. And, any way, he is now in the perfect position to enjoy a good hair-pulling session!

Sometimes, though, it feels slightly neglectful. I am basically ignoring him whilst tricking him into thinking he’s involved. Mum skillz!

One morning I went to the mirror to make a token funny face at him before continuing with the tasks at hand, but he was asleep! How long had he been in that neck-cricking posture? I shall never know. But, hey, at least I’d emptied the dish-washer!

Bored much?

Bored much?

 

 

 

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Housework: since when did I care?

kitchen housework

We were all young once. Young and naive and idealistic. Yes, that was me way back in the day (<2 years ago). I was, a) a feminist (still am one) and b) someone who wanted to stay at home full time whilst her children were young (um, not so much). Unsurprisingly, then, I enjoyed getting on my feminist high horse about the ‘gendering of housework’.

“The problem is, really, that having children is largely shown to change the division of labour within a household; it gets skewed towards the woman, as if the role of mother somehow involves being cook, cleaner and laundry-woman! Whether a woman ‘works’ or not shouldn’t be the issue. I mean, child-care is a full time job, we pay other people a lot of money to do it, it should be valued as an occupation in and of itself…blah blah blah.”

Aaah, to be young and free! I now realise two things: 1) That pretty much all childcare workers – nannies, child-minders, nursery staff – do a crap load of cleaning. 2) If you spend your entire day with a child and do absolutely nothing domestic (i.e. picking up breakfast from the floor or clearing a pathway through the toys) then by 5pm your once lovely home will have disappeared under a heap of used baby-wipes, small wooden blocks and breadstick-crumbs.

Don’t get me wrong, by 5pm everyday my house looks like I’ve done absolutely no housework. What I have actually been engaged in all day is damage limitation. Oh and, you know, entertaining/feeding/soothing an actual tiny human being. So basically, lounging!

So I have come to accept that side of it; the clean-as-you-go efforts that keep your house looking messy rather than utterly rank. I can deal with that, it’s fair enough. The part that irks me is the strange thing that happens to my mind when my husband arrives home from work. I feel an irrepressible urge to explain the mess to him. “Sorry about all the pans. We were out all afternoon, and I had to leave right after lunch, and, I didn’t mean it, and, I’m gonna clean it up…”

Why do I do this? It’s not Hubs making me feel this way. He’ll usually just respond along the lines of “that’s fine love, you don’t need to explain.” Oh but I do, Hubs! I doooo! Because I am a mother now, and that involves being a cook, cleaner, laundry woman… Hold up! What has occurred in my brain? Dear Reader, I have become the very thing I once scorned!

Anyone who knows me will probably be reading this with an expression of glaring incredulity. I am not a domestic goddess. My house is never spotless and rarely thoroughly tidied (see image above). Yes, I cook the tea most nights but when I do Hubs washes up. Pretty sweet. I’d say I do 30% of the laundry, at a push, so really nowt to complain about there. I sweep the floors multiple times a day (#blamethebreadsticks) and am generally the resident toilet-cleaner but as households go, our division of labour is pretty darn healthy. In fact, I took the Woman’s Hour ‘chore wars’ survey and, although I am apparently a ‘Clean Machine’ Hubs is rated as ‘Super Human’. So, in my face.

So why do I still feel like a housewife?

chore wars

We briefly interrupt your regularly scheduled rant-a-thon to bring you this statistical information. (This is not representative of my household).

Well, for a start, the whole ‘unpaid’ thing doesn’t help. Suddenly I am not even remotely the bread-winner. I win no bread, not a crumb, (Dear Editors, I will work for crumbs). And so it’s a bit like Hubs is paying me. Which is a bit like being a employed as a Stay-at-Home-Mum by your husband. Weird. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to show employee accountability and undergo professional development reviews: Over the past twelve months I really feel I have expanded my kitchen repertoire and am placing a lot more emphasis on surface-wiping than I used to.

No one is demanding this from me. No one is even really expecting it. But somehow it has become part of my identity. For all of my post-baby feminist ranting I have completely bought into the idea that staying at home with your kids means taking on more of the housework. And maybe it should mean that, whatever gender the care-giver is. But much worse is the flip-side of this idea: that if you don’t do this then you’re a lazy failure of a mother/wife/woman. I mean, I’ve only got one kid. It’s really not that hard. Shouldn’t I be baking bread and running-up curtains or something? *bangs head on keyboard repeatedly*

Many of us have fallen into the trap of measuring our parenting ‘successes’ based on, I don’t know, how many meals we’ve cooked ‘from scratch’ this week, or how often we mop the bathroom floor. But, hold up, isn’t there another exemplar of our hours of labour? (Pun intended). Don’t we have some pretty strong proof that we are doing something with our days?

That’s right people, we have children! Actual alive, looked-after, fed, read to, talked to, cuddled, tickled and loved children. Have we just come to think of raising kids as ‘what you’re supposed to do’? Is it somehow that bare minimum of daily achievement?? You know, I t’s in your genes and, therefore, you should be good at it. Don’t expect any bloody praise for bringing up the next generation of the human race. That be women’s work! *NB: we will simultaneously bombard you with so much contradictory advice you never feel you’re really good at it all. ha.*

Of course, it’s not women’s work. It’s human’s work. It takes a village to raise a child and all that. But, still, child-rearing exists in the collective imagination as a feminine and organic process, one that just sort of ‘happens’. Of course there’s lots of ‘oh she’s such a good mother‘ and ‘go mums!‘ stuff around but that’s usually more about being a nice person than the day-to-day tasks one has to perform as a primary care-giver.

If you stay home with your kids you’re more likely to be thought as ‘lucky’ because just get to do ‘one thing’ (try a bazillion tiny unquantifiable unnoticed tasks). In a way I am lucky that we can afford for me to do this, but I wouldn’t mind also being thought of as capable or creative or efficient. Okay, that last one would be inaccurate, but I stand by the first two!

I don’t know whether I have really been duped by the patriarchy into guilt-tripping myself about my domestic short-comings. Maybe I just need to shut up and get on with. (Incidentally Shut Up and Get On With It will one day be the title of my first self-help book, catchy, huh?)

Somewhere down the line, though, I fell into the thinking that being a ‘full-time stay-at-home mum’ was not enough. That I would have to prove my utility in other ways in order ‘be okay’. As if anything could please, or indeed impress, my family/friends/the world more than that gorgeous, hilarious, wilful little boy of mine. This is the problem; not the amount of cleaning I do but the obligation I feel to do it. I should do it because I am at home. I should do it because I am a mother. And the guilt if (when, several times a week) I don’t do any of it. That is not on. It needs to stop. Guilt doesn’t clean the loos. In fact, guilt belongs down the toilet. So there.

I’m going to keep on doing the housework, because it needs doing and I live in the house and make a lot of the mess. One day I’ll be employed again and hire a cleaner, so I can feel guilty about neglecting my womanly duties in that way instead. Them’s the breaks. That’s the patriarchy. Bleurgh to it all.

How do you feel about housework? Do you feel more responsible for it than your other half? Or guilty when you have a frozen meal for dinner? Get involved by commenting below, visiting my Facebook page, or tweeting me @aafew.

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“It’s just not good banter”: It’s Time to Talk about Mental Illness

ttt

Today is ‘Time to Talk’ day (if you’re reading this tomorrow, then it was yesterday, and you are in the future, congrats).

What? I hear you quietly mouth at your computer screen. I talk every day, I don’t need a special event. I bet it’s the greetings card companies making shit up again, you know? Like Father’s Day?

No you fools! Time to Talk Day is an actual thing set up by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to promote openness around mental health issues.  Cos, let’s face it, they’re not the easiest thing to talk about are they? No one wants to hear their mate say they’ve been thinking a lot about suicide, or tell their girlfriend they’ve been hearing voices. Let’s face it, it’s just not good banter.

Plus the world has its fair share of people who think those with mental illness are just a bit sad and need to pull themselves together, like the rest of us! Add to that the millions of people who are sympathetic and baffled in equal measure, and talking about this stuff gets pretty scary for us crazies.

So, the idea of Time to Talk Day is that we all take 5 minutes to talk to a friend/family member/ colleague/stranger(?) about how we’re feeling, or how they’re feeling. Something a bit deeper than the weather, anyway. Or, to put it in artsy fartsy way our ‘internal weather’. I know, right? I am so deep.

Today I have chatted to a friend about mental health but I’m also taking five here: 5 metaphors for depression in 5(ish) minutes. Hope you find them useful, enlightening or hilarious. Preferably all three.
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Wicked Wednesday! More plastic toys…

So, Bubs found a great new toy last week:

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 It was an engaging baby sensory experience!
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Then he got bored.

IMG_0791#winning
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Cave women: A perfect model of motherhood?

og og

As far as I can tell, ‘attachment parenting’ seems like a good thing to do. Though I’m not really into ‘parenting philosophies’ (the very term makes my skin crawl, tbh) I think keeping your baby close etc sounds pretty lovely and I know a lot of people that it really works for. I mean, some of it’s defo not for me. Your kids sleep in you bed? For as long as they like? Like, every night?? Er, thanking you kindly, but no. However, the whole emotional-bonding-closeness-communication stuff is fab. Obvs.

Like any ‘parenting philosophy’ though, about 5% of people who follow attachment parenting get a bit smug about it all. #understatement2015. Their way is no longer just ‘what works for me’, it becomes ‘the best way to do things’. Bleurgh. Not the stuff on the Attachment Parenting International website, that all seems very kind, thoughtful and inclusive to me.  No no, it’s all  the blogosphere-forum-comment-section chitter chatter that goes on about doing what comes ‘naturally’ and being in-tune with your baby’s needs. I mean, yeah, obvs, no one is purposefully being out of tube with their baby’s needs, are they? But does it not occur the writers of these comments that the very fact of describing what you’re doing for your baby as ‘natural’ is a pretty sure fire way of making another parent feel like they are doing something unnatural? And wrong.

One of the biggest and most vexing culprits of all this is references to what ‘cave women’ did.

Comments such as “I mean, cave women wouldn’t have (insert modern parenting practice here)” appear on blogs and forums regularly, usually in reference to attachment parenting. They are likely to have been inspired by articles such as the gem “Why Cavemen were Better Parents than we are Today.” (I know, Daily Mail, why do I even do it to myself?).

Somehow, we have come to associate the practices of our distant ancestors with the way of parenting that ‘nature intended’. More than this, that nature’s intentions are the ones we want to follow. You know: high mortality rate, fight-or-flight, survival of the fittest. Now, am I alone in not wanting to apply these principles to the care of my children? Didn’t think so.

So I’ve decided to outline a few reasons why you should not feel obliged to emulate cave people parenting. Commence ranting mode!

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