Sometimes our best is a bit shit…

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Sometimes I time everything wrong.

Tonight I let my boy eat the chocolate someone at nursery gave him at 6pm, we pissed about in the garden til gone 7, I let him watch TV until almost 8 in the secret hope that he would fall asleep on the sofa and the evening would be mine. He did not fall asleep on the sofa.

Instead, he is a ball of angry toddler at the bottom of the stairs. He’s refusing to come up to the lovely bubbly bath I’ve run for him.

It’s got your favourite toys. I say. Let’s have a nice bath time. We can play dinosaurs.

My tone is getting pinched and I’m counting to 10 in my head. It’s not working.

With threats and coaxing I get him up the stairs. He is beside himself. He wants his daddy. He doesn’t want a bath. He wants me to put his pyjamas on without going to get them, which would mean ‘leaving him’. He is all exhaustion and melodrama.

I am hungry.

By the time we make it to his room he is curled up in a ball. Tonight he’s not playing any games. When I try to manoeuvre him from a crooked position on a rocking stool to the bed he screams like I’m about to administer some form of medieval torture.

I just can’t.

I wrestle his pull-up on and let him go back to his crumpled position on the chair. It’s a foot from his perfectly good bed. But I just can’t.

I tell him I going downstairs and will check on him soon, because I can feel that other me rising up. The one who snaps and yells at a tired three year old. The one I only show to the littlest, best person in my world.

And it’s there he falls asleep. In the chair. No bath, no stories, no songs. Not even the chocolate brushed off his teeth. I put him into his bed and lather cream on a few spots I’m supposed to have washed in the-bath-that-was-not. And I feel glad that at least I got him into his pull-up.

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Tonight, this was the best I could do. Sometimes our best is just a bit shit…

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Still not enjoying it? That’s still okay.

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Being a mum… Bleurgh.

That’s right, I’m back bitches, and how better to burst back onto the blogging scene after three months in the wilderness than a good old honest post about how much parenting blows sometimes. (I agonised over whether to add the sometimes to the end of that sentence, right now I feel like it’s most times)

Approximately two and half years ago (!) I wrote a post called ‘Not enjoying it? That’s okay.’ It was all about how when you have a newborn loads of parents with older kids say crap like “cherish this time, it goes so fast” and you smile and nod in a way that implies that you’re finding ‘this time’ truly precious, whilst internally you’re screaming “I FUCKING HOPE IT GOES FAST! GET THIS CREATURE OFF MY BOOB AND LET ME SLEEP FFS!” Or something along those lines…

So that post was all about how it’s okay to not enjoy parenthood from the outset cos it’s bloody hard and you’re sleep deprived and all that. It was an attempt at reassuring those many millions of humans out there who think they should be feeling things they just aren’t feeling. Well, I’m here to tell you, my ‘Bubs’ just turned three years old and I’m still not enjoying it as much as I think I should be. True story.

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I made this chart a while ago, on reflection I think 25% was probably quite generous.

Some context: Dear Reader, you know when you feel like you’ve got your shit together and life decides to give you a good hard throat punch? Without going into any detail (this ain’t that kind of blog) this year my particular throat punch has resulted in becoming unexpectedly single after ten years, and consequently becoming a single mum. Now, things aren’t that bad; we share childcare fairly evenly and in many ways I’m happier than I’ve been in years. But still, FML. My life admin requirements have soared in recent months and, I’m not sure if it’s a direct correlation but enjoyment of parenthood has somewhat plateaued. #understatement

“I love my son… I’m a frickin’ lioness of a mother.”

Let’s get something straight from the start: I love my son. I love him fiercely. I’m a frickin’ lioness of a mother. And I like him, he’s a frickin’ joker. Sometimes we cuddle up on the sofa and watch a film and I’m all loved up. On the other hand, I like him a bit less when he comes up to me just as I’m trying to show the gas man how to read our electric metre and says, with a gleeful look in his eye, “I did a wee on the sofa”. But you know what I mean.

He’s a great kid, I wouldn’t swap him for any other kid (except maybe my friends little girl who hoovers up after herself, that is the dream). But loving my son is a very different thing from enjoying doing all the shit that comes with parenthood and sometimes, more frequently in recent months, I just don’t enjoy it. I don’t, and I don’t care who knows.

Being a parent is hard. And doing it alone is hard. Even if you’re in a partnership you can feel like you’re being stretched too thin, like you’re fraying at the seams with all the different directions you have to push your mind in. Money, work, family, friends, children, children, children, children, children…

Recently the classic “I’m a bad mother” thoughts have begun to enter my head. Why? Because whilst I’m bathing, reading stories (and doing all the voices) and singing lullabies to my happy, healthy son I’m longing to be downstairs with a Pinot Grigio. Because occasionally I get so wound up that I raise my voice a bit too loud at an unnecessary moment. Because, basically I am a human with flaws that I sometimes let my child see.

Big. Fucking. Deal.

“Most of us are fumbling around, just doing our best not to completely fuck our kids up.”

The problem isn’t really any of that stuff; it’s my feelings about that stuff. I know that some people genuinely do love being a parent; it’s their vocation and for one reason or another they just take to it. But most of us are fumbling around, just doing our best not to completely fuck our kids up. We are loving them fiercely and trying hard but also occasionally wishing that this wasn’t our lives. Right? You can admit it, Dear Reader, this is a safe space.

Every now and then I have a momentary thought that I just want out. Out of this motherhood malarky. I can’t cope. I’m shit at it. Let me out!

The consequence of this split second thought is utter, corrosive guilt. It’s as if that very thought proves I am simply not qualified for parenthood. How could any loving parent think such thoughts? Am I the actual worst?

The answer, of course, is no. Those thoughts (and I think it’s safe to assume I’m not the only one who has them) aren’t directed at our children, but at our lives in general, at the relentlessness of it all and the fact that, in that moment, we really can’t deal with a small person shouting ‘I hate you’ in our faces. We just need some sleep. And some fun. Leave us alone! 

“There is literally no thought that can make you a bad parent. None.”

The thing – as this is a big one so listen up – there is literally no thought that can make you a bad parent. None.

It’s very hard to define what a ‘good parent’ is, but we could all list the traits of an objectively bad one: neglectful, demeaning, abusive. We are not those parents. We are simply not.

Because, whilst you may be thinking “someone get me the fuck out of here I can’t watch another fucking episode of In the fucking Night Garden” you are also making your child something to eat, playing whatever strange game is the order of the day and, yes, letting them watch CBeebies for a bit so you can clean up their mess/check your email/drink a cup of tea. You are making sure there is enough money so they can eat and be clothed and have stuff. You are probably doing a thousand things besides this, with very little credit for any of it. Women, especially I think, are just expected to do all this, you not gonna get a medal for motherhood, though it’s the hardest, longest serving job you’ll ever have. And on top of that, there’s some weird unspoken thing that requires you to ‘love every minute of it’.

Fuck that.

“The real wonder is that we enjoy it at all!”

When you think about it in that way, the real wonder is that we enjoy it at all! These small people are unfathomable and unreasonable in the extreme, but we love them fiercely. And they make us laugh. And sometimes it’s really really nice. Like, the nicest thing ever. In the whole world. But sometimes the nice moments seem rarer and the tense clock-watching-til-bedtime moments feels much more dominant. We’re tired and often lonely and we can’t love every minute, or even most minutes, however much we love our kids.

Well, all I can say is, that’s okay. And it’s bloody normal!

Isn’t it?

 

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Do you also not always feel completely in love with the whole parenting thing? Please share! The comment section is waiting for your outpouring of FMLs!

You can also tweet me or show me some Facebook love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Archers Aftermath: 13 questions we’re all asking

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Well, that’s it, despite my FOURTEEN suggestions of satisfying, Archers appropriate deaths for Rob Titchener that didn’t a) traumatise Henry or b) turn Helen into a stabby attempted-murderer, they’ve done both. Bloody BOTH. Not only this, but in the aftermath there has been literally nothing hopeful, apart from the odd magical appearance of Anna Tregoran (#TFITregoran). We’re all counting on you Anna!

Nope, instead of a nice, humiliating, satisfying end to Titchynob (as he’s affectionately known on Twitter) we have a horrible, bloody mess. And, frankly, more questions than answers. So here they are, or a few of them anyway, for the purposes of my own catharsis and your reading pleasure: 13 questions we’re all asking about The Archers. Continue reading

Of home births and hero worship.

Recently, it’s really struck me how we all (or at least those of us who spend too much time googling shit and carry around an abundance of middle class guilt) aspire to a certain kind of birth. Pain-relief free, in a birthing-pool and, ideally, at home. The natural way.

(Incidentally, this line of thinking partly started because of the whole Helen-home-birth storyline on the Archers, which has since paled into insignificance).

Before I go any further I should say – if you did give birth at home, then props to you. I ain’t no hater.

But I do feel like women who manage to do it all ‘naturally’ receive a particular, celebrated status. They are sometimes talked about in a way that I rarely hear women who had assisted births being described. “Such a hero”, “amaaazing” etc.  And I don’t think that status serves anyone. Because, for one thing, it dictates how you should feel about your labour. At home with no pain-relief? You should feel good! In hospital with an epidural and some ‘assistance’. Bad. Obvs. Continue reading

14 satisfying, Archers-appropriate ends for Rob Titchener…

Well, we all really hate Rob Titchener, don’t we? The Rob and Helen saga  has hit somewhat of a nerve among those who are used to tuning in to Radio 4 for 15 minutes of conversations about curtains for the church hall and the reassuring sound of lowing cattle.

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Helen and Rob: it’s not okay

We’re all sensible, grown-up people (sort of), and really we want to see justice served. Rob should be exposed and held to account, preferably with a good helping of public humiliation thrown in. I’d like to see (hear) him shoved forcefully into the back of a police car by Harrison Burns during some sort of village green shindig, just so the whole of Ambridge can get a good view… and maybe throw a few pastured eggs while they’re at it. (my money’s on Rob for the hen house arson, by the way, for no other reason than him being a complete dick).

But we don’t want a trial on the Archers do we? It isn’t Brookside for goodness sake. No, we either want that all to happen in the background, and then for Helen to happily announce that “Rob’s got a 40-year combined sentence” (for fraud, coersive control, rape, sabotage, assault etc) in a few months time. Or… Well, we’d like him to die. Wouldn’t we? Continue reading

7 reasons we all hate Waybuloo, don’t we?

As my regular readers may know, I am big fan of using television as a parenting assistant, especially CBeebies. Bubs knows that ‘scissors are sharp’ because Mr Maker told him so. He also knows the difference between a stegosaurus and a triceratops, all thanks to Andy and his dinosaur adventures.

 I  like to take the piss out of In The Night Garden, and make valid/hilarious points about general gender stereotypes, but I hope CBeebies know just how I treasure their existence!

I can pretty much tolerate all of the programmes too. I mean, I’ll take a Hey Dugee or Dip Dap (best thing on TV) over an ep of the Teletubbies any day, but it’s all good, I can cope… I can even abide the occasional saccharine episode of Everything’s Rosie. But there’s one exception to this rule. When I hear the plinkedy-plonkedy music of the Waybuloo theme start I invariably let out an involuntary groan. Sometimes I even do a swear. Dear Reader, I just hate it. Continue reading

‘I can’t cope’ she said, whilst coping.

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We’ve all been there. On the sofa, still in your nightie at 4pm, sobbing into a cold mug of tea, probably with one boob hanging out, wailing “I just can’t cope” to anyone who’ll listen.

Whether this scenario conjures up memories of parenting or just recovering from a the-world’s-gone-to-shit level hangover, I’m sure many of you will relate. Especially around the #JanuaryBlues post-Christmas, come down period.

But back to work blues aren’t just for those returning to the office – they effect those on maternity leave too. You go from having family around, an extra pair of hands, maybe even the odd nap, to being alone again. Well, not alone, there’s a tiny small human being to take care of. *panics at the thought*

At anytime of year, having a bit of a weep is par for the course for new mums, and dads too I reckon. But for some of us it goes a little bit further than that. Instead of having a ‘moment’ (albeit a daily/hourly ‘moment’) at some straw-breaking-back time of the day or night, we start to believe these three little words all of the time. I can’t cope. We fear being alone with our child for any length of time because we seriously doubt our ability to just get through. We start to believe we simple can’t do it.

That’s what happened with me any way. And around this time in January, when my husband was heading back to work after the Christmas holidays I pretty much lost my shit. No joke of a lie.

I mean, it wasn’t just that, there were lots of other crazy-making things that happened, like not getting enough milk to breastfeed, and having a particularly screamy baby. (I know all babies are screamy, but seriously. So. Screamy.) Anyhoo, I ended up in a post-natal mental unit for mums and babies, as many of you will already know.

Whilst there I learned many things that helped me return to reasonable levels of sanity. Among them was that I did, in fact, have some skill at this whole parenting lark. I knew my baby pretty well and, even though he didn’t go 4 hours between feeds (barely 2 sometimes) and ‘tummy time’ made him cry furiously and eat the floor, he was fine. And so was I. Shock horror.

The thing is, most of the time when we’re having a sob about not being able to cope we are actually coping, in that very moment.

Have I just blown your mind? You’re welcome.

While I was in floods of tears, thinking I could never cope without my mum/hubs around to help me, there was this healthy, vaguely clean and, frankly, alive child right in front of me. He wasn’t ‘the contented baby’ (a fictional character, in case you’re wondering) we all dream of, but he was okay. More than okay. I think I just thought I should be enjoying it all. And I wasn’t, which really, really worried me.

Let’s just getting something straight – looking after a tiny baby is tiring as all fuck. It is a barrage of newness and sleeplessness and epicly daunting responsibilities. And sometimes it just a bit shit. More than a bit. Sometimes you won’t enjoy it because it’s mostly dealing with bodily functions and crying. That’s okay too. It doesn’t mean anything about you, except that you’re a normal human being. It certainly does not mean that you’re a bad mother!!!!!! (there aren’t enough exclamation marks in the world to emphasise that point, so I thought 6 would do).

And because it’s all a bit crap at times, it’s also very natural to regard an entire morning with no company and no planned activity with a mixture dread and battle-readiness. That doesn’t make you weak or mad, and it certainly doesn’t mean you won’t be able to cope with a morning like that.

So, if everyone else going back at work whilst you languish in the nappy-laden land of maternity leave is striking fear into your very soul, I want to tell you this…

Thinking you can’t cope isn’t the same as not being able to cope.* Is your baby fed? Vaguely clean? Cuddled often? Well then, you’re doing fine. You are coping. You’re worry, and you’re tired and you’re probably a bit bored, but you’re definitely coping.  It’s a bloody slog though, isn’t it? Bleurgh.

You’re a good mum. You are. Really, I’m quite sure of it.

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* if you’re in a situation like I was and have PND then it is of course possible that you really can’t cope alone, and that’s okay too. I got to a point where I was afraid I would hurt myself and didn’t feel safe on my own. If that’s the case for you then please seek help and talk to someone. You can also go to A&E if you’re really scared.

 

 

Baby’s first Christmas: a double whammy of ‘I should be happy’

Thinking about Bub’s first Christmas isn’t something I do a lot. Because, to be fair, it was a bit shit. Not objectively, but from my sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden numbness. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, and have tried to do my bit for those who worry about not feeling the ‘right way’ or doing the ‘right thing’ by injecting my signature caustic humour into the ‘parenting advice’ fray.

Today, in an uncharacteristically sincere and personal post for Mumsnet, I’ve reflected on that time in my life. It still makes me sad to really look at it, but it has been quite freeing too. Because now I look back and know I was, at all times (even the ones when I felt actually mad) being a good mum. I was always good enough for my wonderful child. And so are you, just in case you’re wondering.

I think post-natal depression gets stereotyped as something that snaps in straight after birth; a non-attachment that needs fixing. It conjures images of a woman rocking in the corner, hands over ears, ignoring her screaming child. While it can be those things it can also be something that creeps up on you so slowly that – in your focus on getting the whole parenthood thing right – you hardly notice it’s happening until it’s too late. I don’t enjoy reliving my own story, but I think it’s incredibly important that as many of us as possible do. New mums out there need to know that it all being a bit shit is, frankly, quite standard. So do please read and share this post if you think it’s message could possibly help any one.

Cheers me dears.

P.S. Comical Christmassy post to follow. Probably. I have got a life to lead.

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The Ages and Stages questionnaire: return of the cheerio!

Last month Bubs and I attended his two year development check. It was lovely. No, really it was. The health visitor was attentive, relaxed and encouraging; she didn’t so the ‘tick list’ thing that happened when we went for his 9-month check; best of all Bubs said the word ‘triceratops’ during our appointment… Oh yeah I’m winning at parenthood right now. #PunchTheAir. 

The NHS and health visitors and all that are good and should be fought for. Obvs. What I am yet to appreciate it the big fat questionnaire that drops on your door mat a few weeks before.

Frequent readers may be familiar with my rant about the Ages and Stages Questionnaire over a year ago. Well, people, it hasn’t gone away! Nor has it got any less infuriatingly specific/patronising/unnecessary.

However nice they are, however much your rational mind tells you it’s all normal and fine, it’s hard to escape that squirming sense of failure, isn’t it?

Not so long ago a letter inviting me and Bubs to his two year development check dropped through our letterbox. While I am mostly past caring nowadays, these tests (which of course aren’t really test, just a series of assessed activities that are scored and produce an overall result which claims to have bearing on the level of my child’s development) do give rise to a ‘must do well’ mentality I could live without. There’s nothing quite like the prospect of sitting in front of a health professional and explaining why you’ve ticked the ‘not yet’ box on the Ages and Stages Questinnaire to induce a bit of parental neurosis.

 

My parental neurosis face.

 
What’s more, most health visitors I’ve spoken to think it’s a bit of a joke. So why is it even a thing??

Think I’m being unreasonable? Well here’s auick analysis of some of the 2-year ASQ’s most mind boggling aspects…

A cooperative toddler?

At the very beginning the 30-question itinerary (oh yeah, I counted), just after the bit suggesting we should ‘make completing this questionnaire a game that is fun for you and your child’ a helpful piece of text informs us:

At this age, many toddlers may not be cooperative when asked to do things.

#NoShitSherlock. It continues…

You may need to try the following activities with your child more than one time. If possible, try the activities when your child is cooperative. If your child can do the activity but refuses, mark yes for the item.

Oh, Dear Reader, where to start?! Bubs is often in a mildly cooperative mood, but the idea that this state of play would necessarily lead to him completing specific tasks at my request seriously underestimates the will and imagination of a toddler. Also, I would imagine that most parents don’t need to be told not to try and make their little one line four blocks in up in a row when they are feeling ‘uncooperative’ (i.e. being a grumpy little so and so).

  
And what’s all this about my child being able to do an activity but refusing? If I knew he could do the activity I would have ticked the box already, I do have a life to lead you know! So how do I know if he can do it if he hasn’t done it? I am not into speculation or bending the truth, but when I ticked ‘not yet’ on his nine months development check it was deemed his problem solving skills needed monitoring. They didn’t. So perhaps this time I’ll be a bit more generous…

Seven, one-inch blocks.

‘Does your child stack seven small blocks or toys on top of each other by herself? (You could also use spoons of thread, small boxes, or toys that are about 1 inch in size)’

This one is particularly fascinating to me. Why seven? Why not six or eight? It just seems a bit arbitrary me, but I sort of like the idea that some researcher somewhere has found that balancing precisely seven, one inch blocks is the benchmark of two-year-old block-building potential.

 

This block is precisely 1 inch. Nailed it. No pun intended.

 
As you all know I am a diligent and caring parent, and so I duly selected seven small building blocks for bobs to build a tower with. When he was in a cooperative mood, I am invited him to build said tower, I invited him to build a tower probably three times. But he didn’t, he prefers to knock them down. Now, I know he has the motor skills to build a five block tower and if he really had to (which would in no scenario be the case) he could probably stack seven. So I’m going to tick yes, but is that a lie? To be honest, marking the ‘sometimes’ box would feel more duplicitous, because he never does it but he could, so, yeah…

Good Lord, I’m getting palpitations already.

Elementary jewellery making

‘Can your child string small items such as beads, macaroni, or pasta wagon wheels into a string or shoelace?’

Does anyone in England know what the fuck a pasta wagon wheel is? And is this something that any 24 month old child can do? (gloating parents feel free to comment below)

My theory on this one is that it is a conspiracy by child labour lobbies to see if we can get toddlers making Primark necklaces. My answer would be no. I did try, good girl that I am, but my boy could not have had less interest or ability with regards to this one. However, I did fashion a rather attractive penne necklace whilst trying.

 

Chic, no?

 
While we are on the subject, there is a MAJOR difference between a piece of string and a shoelace. A shoelace has that closed thingy on the end which makes it much easier to thread through holes. And I don’t mind admitting that I am not the sort of person who has spare shoe laces in my house, I never will be. I’ve accepted that about myself.

When we went to the check she had a shoelace and a cotton reel. Now that’s just cheating.

Return of the Cheerio

Undoubtedly the most infuriating thing about this questionnaire is its unashamed Americanness. No offence to my lovely readers across the pond; I have nothing against the US per se, but the fact that no one has even bothered to CHANGE THE BLOODY DATES AROUND makes me incandescent. We are talking steam out of the ears, batshit crazy.


Another steadfast American quirk is this survey is commitment to mentioning Cheerios wherever possible.

After a crumb or Cheerio is dropped into a small, clear bottle, does your child turn the bottle upside down to dump out the crumb or Cheerio?

Why not just say ‘crumb’ and leave it at that? Was the additional example of a branded breakfast cereal really necessary? Apparently in the US wholegrain, sugarfree Cheerios are a staple of little ones’ diets, but here they don’t really exist. And any way, I’d rather my child’s welfare be kept well clear of the selfish shitturd of a corporation that is Nestlé, thank you very much.

What we really want to know

I am 100% sure that my lovely, experienced, knowledgable health visitor didn’t need me to fill in this comically specific questionnaire in order to assess Bubs. In fact I imagine being given a tick list to fill in is more irksome than anything.  My theory is that there are two things we really need to know from these check ups, and she gave me both:

First and foremost, we want our child to meet and interact with a healthcare professional and for said professional to confirm that they’re happy and healthy and making reasonable progress towards growing up into big boys and girls.

Secondly, we’d really like a parenting approval stamp, please. A reassurance that our witless meanderings through  parenthood haven’t stunted any growth or caused irreparable castastrophy. We want to be told we are okay, as well as our children. An acknowledgement of this every now and again is really good for our mental health and confidence, which is constantly undermined by the countless Daily Mail articles and internet forums that tell us how and how not to parent our own children. (FYI, you’re doing it all wrong)

So go to the check, and listen to your health visitor, but take the 1 inch blocks and Cheerios with a pinch of salt, you’ll be all the saner for it.

5 things that prove the world hasn’t gone to shit…

Watching the news (or even just your Facebook wall) it’s pretty easy to conclude that the world has finally, irrevocably gone to shit.

Well, Dear Reader, don’t let the man get you down!

Niceness isn’t news because it doesn’t sell, but also because niceness is a normal, everyday thing. All over the world there are people just being kind or pioneering or just bloody humane as they go about their daily business.

So here are 5 proofs that the world isn’t going to hell in a handbasket quite yet…

There’s a new treatment for Leukaemia!

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Photo by Great Ormond Street Hospital

Clever scientist types have pioneered a gene therapy that reversed an aggressive form of leukaemia, thought to be incurable, in this adorable one-year-old girl.

People in Ghana are making poo into fuel!

poo power!

Okay, kind of gross, but properly ingenious too, helping to reduce ocean pollution and deforestation. Boom! (Warning there’s a lot of poo on the BBC video!)

Almost a quarter of people in the UK give their time for free.

  
Did you know that an estimated 15 million people volunteer in the UK alone? I didn’t, and I think it’s pretty cool. Nuff said.

There are dolphins in the Thames!

  
50 years ago the River Thames was declared ‘biologically extinct’, now there dolphins and whales and seals all kinds of proper good animals swimming around in its clean waters. Over 2,000 of them. #ActualDolphins #winning

And finally… Sierra Leone is Ebola free!

And to celebrate someone made the most joyous music video ever. I defy you not to smile.

Boom!