Put A Plug In It!

I’m not a big fan of The Simpsons but I definitely know who Maggie Simpson is. Doesn’t everyone? I see her on the street, in passing pushchairs, at friends’ houses. She has a disproportionately large face featuring two big round eyes and one big plastic plug. And puffer-fish cheeks from the sucking. It’s that dreaded slash beloved dummy!

Like a lot of people, I had always scoffed at dummies. Dirty, teeth bending plugs to keep your child quiet – what was to like? If you think about it, it’s just mean! Let them talk mean Mummies! And wasn’t it just another thing to try and wean them off? The name also got me. Was it intended to be a mannequin nipple? I wanted to meet this chic it was based on because she has some funky shit going on in her bra. Or was it something to do with labelling babies stupid? That just seemed mean, it’s not their fault they’re a dribbling mess for the first 12 months of their lives. The word dummy just didn’t help. Then, everything changed. Girly no1 was born. After those first few days, when you think you’ve been given a dream baby that never cries and only eats and sleeps, reality hit. She started making all this noise and wailing. She was only happy when she had a nipple in her mouth. As they were splitting and tender (at one point, if you looked from the side, my nipples looked just like the Himalayas), I couldn’t bear to put them near her mouth for feeding time, never mind for comforting suckling. I had to make a choice between being stabbed repeatedly in the eye or the ear. Which would you prefer Mrs H?! Being slightly autistic about loud noises (if ever you want me to stop doing something, make a high pitched wail and I’ll just curl up in a ball, rock and ask for my Mummy), someone suggested a dummy. My immediate thought was “I hate dummies”. Then I looked at my baby whose moan was my kryptonite, put two fingers up to pre-baby me and Usain Bolt-ed to the Boots down the road. I bought two different kinds of dummy, mentally re-named them the far more apt, but American, name of ‘pacifier’ in my head and spent the rest of the day forcing them into her mouth. Sadly it didn’t work, she was having none of it. They flew out of her mouth like a jack-in-the-box, littering the carpet, and the grizzling continued. As I was approaching the end of my tether and considering stopping breast feeding altogether, she suddenly found this tiny little stump on her hand, which was the perfect size for sucking. Despite having little to no control over any part of her body, she managed to get that tiny little excuse for a thumb into her mouth almost constantly and noisily suckled away. Peace reigned once more. Nights improved significantly because if she woke up, she had her thumb. And best of all, I didn’t have to get out of bed! We tried a dummy again after so many people said “what about her teeth?” but it flew across the room in disgust. Who needs a rubber nipple when you have the tiniest thumb in the world to suck on?! 
That thumb became our saving grace. It was always there. It didn’t need sterilising. It obviously tasted good, even when the skin went all white and flakey. And it was funny watching her learn how to position her hand (for us, not for her). In the early days, her tiny little palm would cover her whole face and her little deathly-weapon fingers would poke her in the eye. But eventually she nailed it. Her first trip to the dentist was inevitably filled with the sideways head and the you-really-should-discourage-her-from-sucking-it. To this I laughed. I wondered how we might achieve this…Create some sort of thumb hat to cover it up (or just put a glove on)?! Pin her arm to the side of her cot in Houdini-esque straight jacket? Permanently cover her thumb in broccoli and mashed potato? Continually shout at her to take her thumb out all day every day alongside all the other things I told her off for, then at night physically remove it from her mouth? No. She was one. And that thumb was the key to our happiness! We agreed to worry about teeth later, we have a whole spare set yet. 
Girly no2, when she emerged from that initial 3-week period I like to call a lie, was a real screamer. Given my slightly more relaxed attitude toward dummies, after one day at about 4 weeks old when she had screamed for almost 3 hours, Husband gave her a dummy. The first couple of times she spat it across the room like a chicken-eating-foot-dragging-cap-donning teenager hucking up spit, but on the third time, she loved it. She went straight off to sleep. Husband couldn’t wait to tell me how he had done it. He was beside himself with excitement, he had found the answer to our increasingly desperate sleep deprived prayers. I umm’d and aaah’d a bit as I didn’t want us to fall into the dummy trap. I felt a bit uneasy about it having heard some recent horror stories about parents trying to get their little one to give their dummies up. One such story involved some ceremonial burying of the dummy in a field, only for the Dad to return and dig it back up in the early hours of the morning. I hope I read this and a friend didn’t tell me, otherwise I’m sure I would have asked about the mechanics of finding the spot – was there a dummy equivalent of a gravestone? And was the dummy loose in the dirt? How do they know a cat hadn’t pee’d on it? I digress. Despite thinking I wouldn’t really use it, the next day no2 wouldn’t stop screaming after I’d fed her for 40 minutes and was in a rush to get out the house (appointment plus newborn equals stress induced twitch) so I popped the dummy into her mouth and there was instant peace! Aaaaah! Who gives a shit if we have to dig a dummy grave?! We’ll make it fun! We can decorate lollipop sticks! Cognitive dissonance at its’ finest. Like before, I went straight to Boots and bought four different kinds. We did the grown up thing and talked about ground rules and when it would be ok to use one and when it wouldn’t be ok. 3 hours later we completely ignored them all when all we wanted to do was sleep. Strangely, after a couple of nights hopping in and out of bed to put the glow-in-the-dark plastic plug back in, I decided it might not be the way forward for us. We wanted her to be able to sleep without needing it. If she needed it in the daytime, particularly at that delightful period of the day just before bed when Girly no1 becomes the devil incarnate and Girly no2 emits a constant high-pitched wail regardless of what you say or do. You know the time…the one where you constantly check the clock to see if it’s acceptable to drink prosecco; where you question how much is ok to have before they’re in bed because there’s no way you can wait until they’re in bed; and when you wonder why the minutes last 120 seconds between 5.30 and 6.30 when the rest of the day goes so fast. She ended up using a dummy as and when we needed it for a week or two, then like her sister before, she also found a podgy little stump on her hand. Her forefinger became her pacifier, helping her go to sleep. Unlike her sister, she doesn’t suck it very often, just when she’s falling asleep.  

My conclusion is that babies suck. Not like that but they have to suck, for their own happiness and contentment. And frankly they are much easier to love when they are quiet and sleeping. If you don’t want it to be your bleeding, cracked Himalaya nipple they’re sucking on, then give them something – a digit off their own hand, a rubber teat, anything. Within reason obviously. I’m a convert to the put a plug in it approach. And I’ve learned to love Maggie Simpson. 

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#TO DUMMY OR NOT TO DUMMY

Out Out In

This week’s post is all about the excitement of going out out and then actually wanting to be in! Please like and share if you enjoy. Big love to all you beautiful Mums!

We had been out drinking til 1am spending £25 in a bouncer-protected McDonalds right before bed. I had been harping on about not having had one for 15 months because they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near pregnant or breast feeding mothers – drivel the child-free youth of East London really don’t care about. I woke up a few hours later at 6.45am and managed to keep quiet for a whole 15 minutes before snuggling into Husband. “You’re going to make me get up and go home, aren’t you?” he asked in a resigned, hoarse voice barely lifting his head off the pillow. He turned over and I gave him my best I-know-you-love-me smile, telling him he could stay in bed for another 15 minutes while I had a shower and made him a coffee. After our second McDonalds in 12 hours, we were home in time for Girly no2’s second feed of the day, relieving my aching, throbbing, and now pornstar-like boobs. My fuzzy (hungover) head all but disappeared as I inhaled her lovely little coconut head. 

I do this every time we stay away for the night. That day, I’m desperate to get out. Crazy excited to have some time away from the repetition and predictability of my days. Some time away from swearing at trodden-on Peppa Pig figurines; from saying “share nicely or Jack/Millie/Harper/Noah (delete as appropriate) will have to go home”; from cooking spaghetti and slicing up cheese and cucumber; from shivering in the park asking the 34th Mum that week how old her snot-clad fine-haired fairy is while we push two smiley toddlers back and forth. In the nights leading up to said outing I dream about jaegerbombs and dancing to 80’s power ballads in Be@1 til 3 in the morning. I picture an attractive glossy haired fun-loving blonde in leather clad trousers laughing and dancing (not a random – me circa 2012). The reality is pretty far removed. The stress of leaving the house is never the best start. Scribbling down routines, demonstrating to grandparents the exact position to hold Girly no2 in order to get her to sleep and what to say to get no1 to brush her teeth; which buttons to press to make the Gro-clock work; where the wellies are in case no1 refuses to leave the house without them; the dosage of Nurofen versus Calpol and in which instances to use each one and which teething ring to put the Bonjela on (this Matchstick Monkey is amazing by the way, only one worth using). Dodging the sick after the final feed, I always leave the house feeling fraught, frumpy and un-cool, welling up at the sad face on Girly no1 as I hug her goodbye. I convince myself it will be fine once we relax and have a few drinks. What actually happens is that I get all self-conscious when I arrive in the environment I used to inhabit so easily, and I end up drinking too much too quickly then panic that I’ll make myself sick. I worry about the quality of the next days’ breast milk. I sober up just as everyone else gets smashed and then I just want to eat and go to bed. Before I’ve even left whatever cool pop-up establishment we’ve been in, I wish I was at home in our bed ready for snuggles with my babies in the morning. It’s not exactly how I saw the night going and always leaves me feeling hungover, guilty and deflated. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to have fun. I was like it with Girly no1, in such a rush to remember and relive life before pregnancy and baby, but when given the opportunity I realised I didn’t quite fit-in the same anymore. It made me desperate to get back to my baby. It’s the same this time around. I know it won’t last forever, it’s just a phase after they’re born, but getting back to feeling myself is so much more of a challenge than I ever though it would be. 

I did it again this week. I had a meeting with work in London so I took the opportunity to have a day to myself, meeting Sister Auntie for lunch and doing some shopping. After some prosecco at lunch, I walked miles along Oxford Street buying a few rubbish things like some new pants (a must after childbirth) and some dry shampoo. Clothes for the babies too obviously – at least they are guaranteed to fit! I went to Selfridges, John Lewis, Reiss and a few of the big shops in pursuit of a wedding outfit. I tried a few on, already in a hot sweaty fluster as I entered the changing rooms. I’ve never found them to be the most confidence-boosting of places. I must pause here to ask the question, who the hell chooses the lighting in shop fitting rooms? I’ve wondered this since I was 15, skinny as a string bean, but thinking I looked disgusting in everything River Island had to offer. It’s this lighting that is responsible for my somewhat expensive habit of buying things to try on at home and return next week if they don’t fit (pah! As if I’m going back next week!). Cue a lifetime of free clothes to Sister Auntie. This week was no different – lighting has not moved with us into 2017, it’s still 1997 in a fitting room. I had a few dresses I knew wouldn’t fit because they didn’t stretch and some tops that might go with a pencil skirt I’d seen earlier. I hadn’t bought it because the only one that fit was two sizes bigger than I normally wear and it made me too sad. The first top made me look like a Russian prostitute. Turns out I had it on back to front. As I was changing the top round and I wondered when fitting rooms had become like airport security, I noticed the scenic pictures on the walls of the rippling sand dunes….oh, no, that was just my thighs and belly. Lovely. The next top lasted about three seconds before I threw it all to the ground in a strop. Then, being the good girl I am, I guiltily picked it all up and put it back on the hangers perfectly. I walked towards the smiling assistant at the end of the one-way system prepared to throw it all at her when she asked: “any good?”. Instead, she held her hands out and carried on talking to the girl around the corner telling some (not very) hilarious story about getting her hair caught in a door handle or something equally as annoying. I stormed out of the changing rooms and headed to the toilet, my heart aching as I saw the baby change signs and all the shopping mums and daughters heading that way. Instinctively, I leant forward over an imaginary pram to check my not-there baby’s nappy. At that moment, I decided to go home. If I got a move on then I would make it back for bed time. 

I didn’t think I would suffer with all this awkwardness and anxiety the second time around, but I definitely have. I know that it’s just at the beginning when everything is so new and life is so different but I think it’s almost worse this time around because I am now so far removed from my old life. I suspect some of these feelings are down to my Mum Tum and unwanted Kim K butt. Flooded with hormones and being very babyfied turns me into a person I didn’t think I would ever be, but one that I am strangely proud of. It does pass as my babies get older. When my body, well a body, comes back and I’m no longer breast feeding, I start to feel more like me again. As time goes on I will force some time in to study Grazia, I will shop online to avoid the hideousness of the changing room lights, I will get a new haircut and emerge perhaps not as the old me, but as a new me. Some blend of the vaguely stylish piss head I used to be with the mumsy frump I am for the first year after having a baby. Until then I think I’ll stick to the local curry house with Husband!

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OUT OUT IN THE FITTING ROOMS
Sweating in the fitting rooms

An Epic Battle

Every parent knows the agony of a monster temper tantrum in public. There’s nothing else quite like it. We had one a few weeks ago and it was brutal, we’re still reeling from it now! Please share your tips for handling them because boy oh boy I need them! All shares and likes much appreciated as usual. 

Picture this scene. Soft sands. Warm sun. The sounds of the tide. The gurgling of a baby. The odd squeal of joy from roaming children while parents gaze on happily. We were having a lovely stroll along the beach. It might not have been the Caribbean, but it had been a warm spring day, and everyone had enjoyed making sand castles and running in and out of the sea. We were getting hungry and it was time to go. Suddenly the little person, whose footsteps I had worshipped for two and a half years now, was facedown in the sand kicking and screeching “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!” She was coughing, choking and screaming. She was Hulk in pink spotty raincoat. It was deafening. And it was messy – sand and toddlers don’t mix well at the best of times. It was tantrum time. Public tantrum time! After a moment laughing at how out of control she was, I realised she wasn’t coming back from this one and my warm happy face turned to a prickly, sweaty, ashamed one very quickly. The smiling faces on the beach became judgemental, and myriad. The incoming tide became an encroaching danger. There was sand everywhere, her eyes and mouth, it was all plastered to the snot and tears that covered that angry little face. I tried cuddling and talking her down but there was no coming back. In the end, Husband picked her up, threw her over his shoulder and marched her back to the car. She carried on sobbing asking for Mummy. When she had me, she wanted Daddy. It was impossible. She was impossible. 

EPIC BATTLES with toddlers
Hulk on the beach
When this happened a few weeks back, I felt fortunate that I was with Husband, Grandaddy and my best friend, the Northerner. It was safety in numbers, I was glad of the support. If I had been on my own I couldn’t physically have got the three of us off the beach. It would have looked like a scene from Bridget Jones, with some Mr Bean thrown in for good measure. We all watched with disbelief as our tottering little angel became an enraged fireball in front of our very eyes. It was Girly no1’s first major tantrum and it was pretty epic. I was almost proud, ‘if you’re going to do something, do it properly’ has always been my mantra! Until Girly no2 arrived, we hadn’t really seen much bad behaviour from Girly no1 (I talk about her reaction in this previous post) but for the last 5 months she really has had a bug up her arse. That bug is being two years old and having a baby sister. She is acting out! A situation like this had been brewing for a while, but my dislike for conflict, along with the fact that most of the time she can be talked around, meant that a final showdown has always been averted. Not this day though! It was just the Grand Finale you would expect from a melodramatic toddler. Husband and I were actually pretty upset. Seeing her this distraught was horrible. It took about an hour for her to start breathing normally. Even longer to get the grains of sand out of her nooks and crannies. 
It brought some things to the surface for Husband and I as we realised there are more differences in our parenting approach than we thought. Our morals are very similar so on the big things, we are consistent. But on some of the smaller rebellions, Husband is quite strong, harsher than I am. I’m all about picking my battles, probably because this is what gets me through the day with her. No one likes conflict, least of a whole day of it, so I will only go into battle if I really have to. When a row is coming, I opt for distraction or conversation. If the heat is really on, I give her options accompanied by the Mum look – you know the one, head cocked to the side, eyebrows raised, mouth pursed like a cats bum, ear poised, waiting for the right answer. Outside it says “don’t fuck with me little one”. Inside it says “when the hell did I become my mother?!”. We have staring contests. Recently she has learnt to turn on the tears. Come on Girly no1! I’m a girl too! At least be creative! Normally these actions are enough to avert the looming crisis. But I still don’t want to be doing this all day every day…I’ll get wrinkles. Whilst it might annoy me that she continually opens and closes the kitchen drawer where her cups are kept risking trapping her fingers, it’s not worth a fight. Hanging off the door handle in the bathroom about to smash her head on the tiled floor, worth a fight. Wearing crocs with tights, not worth a fight (I never thought I would say this, crocs full stop would have been enough for a fight pre-children!). Attempting to poke her sisters eyes out with her thumbs, totally worth a fight. 

Tantrums are part of the whole journey, and some parents have to deal with them far more often than we do. They’re embarrassing, gruelling even, but I’m told they pass. I haven’t seen a teenager being carried back to their parents’ car like she was that day so it must be true. I’m well aware that there will be a million more battles along the way, and they will take many forms. I’m not looking forward to any of them but it’s all part of the parenting deal, it’s hard. Even harder when you don’t always agree with your partner. Even harder still when you think about the psychological ramifications of how you handle things. Unbearable! But surmountable. Husband and I agree that all we can do is talk. And do what feels right in the moment. We have to pick the things that really matter and hope that the right things rub off on the little people. So next time you see a Mum head butting her steering wheel with a screaming toddler in the back of her car, don’t stare, don’t gawp or judge, assume she’s just dragged her choking child off the beach and keep on walking. 

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EPIC BATTLES with toddlers
Crocs and tights aren’t worth the fights

Mummascribbles

Eating’s (not) Cheating

This week’s post is about our family battle with food. Our internal battles, our external battles and my battle with myself. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic because I find it to be one of the most stressful aspects of parenting. Please do this on Facebook, Twitter (@makinglittleppl) or the comments box below. Let’s talk! Oh and I owe you a thank you. Earlier this week I asked you to like and share my post in a bid to drive up page likes and many of you kindly did. If you can do the same again, I will be eternally grateful! Big love to you all, Mrs Hergerburger xx

Eating’s cheating used to be one of my favourite expressions. Choosing drinking over eating, what’s not to like?! It typically meant I would go out on a Friday night and drink, most often until I was sick. Cheating my body? Nope. My hangover? Definitely not. My waistline? No way, no how. So I’m not sure eating is cheating. Sadly however, I think my toddler has adopted my juvenile mantra. Not to do with alcohol, though you would be forgiven for thinking she was drunk if you heard her rendition of Postman Pat, but with food. I find the eating thing incredibly stressful. I shouldn’t, as it’s so base, but between the mess, the habits and the crap-dodging, it can really monopolise the mind. 

Once you’re over the breast/bottle saga that dominates the first six weeks of your baby’s life, the next stress is when to start giving them real food. We had heard and read so much conflicting advice – friends giving porridge at 6 months, cousins giving curry at 5 months, mums giving egg at 4 months and Nana giving apples at 3 months. Where do you even begin?! We decided we wanted to understand the science and make an informed decision. We looked like neurotic first time parents when we admitted that we attended an NCT ‘Introducing Solids’ workshop, but I’m OK with that. I always use the analogy that I wouldn’t go and see a doctor that hadn’t practised for 20 years, so blindly following the advice of family elders, without understanding the latest science, doesn’t make sense either. Listen, but follow your own path and all that. The workshop was a well-spent couple of hours. As well as learning the actual signs that your baby is ready to wean (sitting up, loss of tongue-thrust reflex and ability to pick up food) the biggest takeaway was the maturity of the digestive system. My (probably dreadful) interpretation of this is that a babies’ gut is open for the first 6 months, to allow antibodies and proteins from breastmilk to pass straight through to the bloodstream. One of the advantages of breast milk is that it lines the gut and helps protect against anything bad. At 6 months, the gut closes so the baby’s body is able to stop harmful things passing through on its own. This became one of my milestones for breast feeding, I felt better about my decision to stop once 6 months had passed. This article on KellyMom, an absolute favourite website of mine, explains it much better than I do. The other thing we learnt was that nothing will fill your baby up like calorie-dense breast milk or formula. So if your baby is waking up hungry, give them more milk, don’t think that a barely mangled bit of banana is going to fix the problem. It made sense to us. Husband and I walked out of the standard slightly-damp-smelling-rough-carpeted venue much better informed than we went in. I’ll certainly never buy a box of Farley’s Rusks (shock horror to anyone over 30!) due to the shocking amount of sugar and salt in them. And actually, even many of the baby jars and snacks are bad habits waiting to happen. I’m surprised it’s not legislated more heavily. We started feeding Girly no1 at 6 months as per the advice from NCT, the World Health Organisation, NHS, UNICEF and EOAB (Every Other Acronym Body – totally a real thing) and will do the same for Girly no2 in a couple of weeks time. But this time around I’m going to charge a pound for every person that looks at me like I’m a child beater when I tell them we’re waiting until 6 months. I might be able to afford a new sofa!  

After the ‘when’ to feed, we tackled the ‘what’. From day one we combined baby-led weaning with spoon feeding. We started Girly no1 on pieces of fruit and steamed veg, never bothering with baby porridge and I didn’t purée anything myself. There were times, I admit – shaking my head in shame – that we used pre-prepared meals. Ella’s Kitchen and later HIPP Organic meals were great and have little-to-no additives, and I eventually shook off the guilt of using these when I saw the variety of flavours, and frankly how much easier they made my life. We came to think of Ella as our family chef. Once Girly no1 was older and better with lumps, we made big batches of spag bol, sausage casserole or shepherds pie, all crammed with veg. But all that was back when she ate anything I gave her. When I worried about her being a Waitrose kid asking for salmon with asparagus spears, or beef bourgignon with a side of lightly peppered butternut squash. Six months ago everything changed as she discovered a new superpower. The ‘yellow food group’ power, designed to make Mummy twitch and growl. Girly no1, at two and a half, randomly decided she would only eat yellow foods – cheese, brioche, yoghurt, banana and cereal. It was, and is, incredibly frustrating. The Heath Visitor told me not to worry. She said to think about food over the week rather than the day. I did this….yep, still yellow. There is one exception, she will always eat spaghetti bolognese. Fish fingers have recently been added to this list, though arguably these belong in the yellow food group. I don’t know whether this is me doing something wrong or it’s just a phase. It had become a power struggle and, quite literally, wasn’t healthy for any of us. I read an article that suggested presenting the whole meal (including any dessert) on the table at the same time and letting your child pick what they want. It said to stop thinking about our concepts of sweet and savoury as they just aren’t embedded in children of that age. The idea is that the child can choose what they eat and this freedom of choice leads to them eating more (buffet mentality!). I thought this would mean that she would turn into a Petit Filous, but surprisingly, she hasn’t. She has started eating peas again, and is gradually trying new things. The other day at a friend’s house she ate raw carrot, hummus and cucumber. I choked on my own raw carrot, cucumber and hummus. At our house she would shake and shudder at the very mention. It isn’t always practical to serve lots of dishes, particularly as we eat at different times, but I try and make sure that we eat as a family a couple of times a week and she is offered everything on the table. When she eats on her own, I give her a plate with everything on it – fish fingers, peas, fruit and yoghurt. Power struggle averted. 

My biggest food nemesis is other people (blame everyone else, why not?!). We read and heard a lot about the impact of too much sugar and salt on babies and children’s bodies and vowed to do everything we could to keep these out of their diets. Excessive salt is so harmful to babies’ kidneys and like most things, if you never get a taste for it you never crave it, heroin being a great equivalent example. My mum never added salt to any of her cooking, so I don’t either. In fact I hate salty things. As long as we do the cooking, this one is fairly easy to dodge. Sugar, however, is an entirely different matter. Both Husband and I have a ridiculously sweet tooth and eat biscuits like there is a world shortage. I crave sugar at two or three points in my day. I would be one skinny Minnie if I didn’t eat sugar as I do. I tried to give up in January – I lasted 5 days. Now I’m even worse than when I started. I didn’t, and still don’t, want my Girlies wrestling sugar cravings for the rest of their lives. And I definitely don’t want them to be another obesity statistic – sugar is an absolute and proven driver of this problem. I read that if children can avoid refined sugars for the first three years of life, they won’t have a sweet tooth. It will be sickly to them. We almost completely dodged it for the first year but the second and third year have been so much harder as every mofo wants to ply our baby with sugar. We went to a children’s gym class the other day that gave out lollipops at the end! I love a Chuppa Chups as much as the next guy but for a two year old. Really?! One of the most frequent battles is with grandparents, who seem to think their mission in life is to fill your child with biscuits, sweets and ice cream. It’s a topic that drives me nuts. I want to ask why they want to push my daughter towards a lifelong fight with her health that she could well avoid. It’s not just grandparents though. Knowing what we know now, why do any of us give our children anything sugary? If we all nipped it in the bud now then diabetes, obesity and tooth decay wouldn’t be issues in the future. We give it to them because we like it…but we don’t give them prosecco and fags, we’d be locked up for it! Before you all hit the X in the corner and accuse me of being a ranting hippy, I should state that I’m no angel. I eat biscuits in front of Girly no1 and occasionally let her have a bit. We let her have a little ice cream in the summer. And at Easter, she had a bit of a tiny Milky Bar egg. This approach, though, is not much better than giving it to her always because with this we’re making it a special treat. All the more tempting! It’s quite the conundrum, and I don’t know the right answer. I’ve told a few people that she had no chocolate at Easter and the reactions are akin to me telling them I locked her in an under-the-stairs cupboard for the weekend. I feel strongly on the topic though, like most things this is about setting them up for the future. Both of my girls are already bloody heavy and would struggle to hit the upper end of “ideal” on the BMI scale. You know those hessian sack door stops that look like they are light but you break your back picking them up? That’s me and my girls. The three of us are lead-lined. The 8 stone scale reading will whizz by at age 10. I ditched weight-watching years ago but since having babies I’ve started back on the scales. It never used to matter because I was athletic and fit. The only time it bothered me was when my Mum gasped when I told her how much I weighed. I suppose 12 stone is shocking to someone who weighed 8.5 stone and had a 22 inch waist when she got married. Now, though, I’m not fit or athletic, I’m fat and squidgy. 5 months after giving birth I weigh way more than my “slim” weight of 12 stone. Once I’m feeling myself again I’ll get my focus on the things that matter to me and that I want to matter to my Girlies – health, strength and feeling good about the woman staring back at you in the mirror.

So the whole food thing stresses me out, for me and for them. I don’t know the answer. I’m cowardly in some ways because I’m not willing to be the big bad wolf. When all the other kids are eating crap, I give it to my child too, peer pressure at its’ finest. When someone overweight feeds my child biscuits, and I want to say “why do you want her to be fat too?”, I don’t. Because I do it too. What I do know is that as we embark on the whole food journey again with Girly no2, I’ll do most things the same, but hopefully with less sugar. For everyone. Maybe as a family we’ll even go sugar free and I’ll find the confidence to say no to more. First though, I’m going to eat the rest of that Milky Bar egg…

EATINGS (NOT) CHEATING #toddlerfood #food #yellowfood
Mix it up

That’s a Bit Weird

Last weekend we went to London. We saw these beautiful giant tortoises at London Zoo. Near the enclosure was a shell that you could climb into and pretend to be a tortoise. Sister-Auntie duly climbed in and committed to the role with a wide mouth and big eyes. Us grown ups were rolling around laughing. Girly no1, now two and a half, was not. She stood and watched her Auntie with a very serious look on her face. Then said “Auntie, what are you doing? Get up!”  I laughed so hard a little bit of wee came out. Oh my serious little girl (and the gift of childbirth). 

I knew very early on that Girly no1 had that serious streak, as I have it myself. Personality wise, she’s very similar to me. It’s a very strange thing having your quirks reflected back at you in a small person, you see them how other people see them. It can be disconcerting at times, but hugely reassuring in others. You learn that others can adore your weirdness. Laughter can be fond. And when you don’t react exactly as people expect, it’s other people’s’ discomfort that makes things awkward, not you. Since she was a baby, we have really had to work hard for smiles and laughs. I never minded, I found it quite endearing, but other people would become almost embarrassed that their last 5 minutes of pulling stupid faces and making weird noises failed to make “this funny little soul” smile. She would look at them with the most deadpan face. It was hilarious! A laugh from her was nigh on impossible, unless you were Husband or I. I once let on what I had done to make her laugh for the first time. For the next two months whenever she was left alone with one of her Nana’s or her Auntie, I could hear them singing the magic song (not Sir Mix a Lot in case you’re wondering) and assuming “the position” on the floor. The Nana’s were always caught out by their dodgy knees – can’t move so quickly in your fifties! Consequently the trick lost its’ charm and I had to find a new one. When I found one I didn’t tell anyone else, if I had to spend all day with the smaller, angrier me then I deserved the laughs. To this day she’ll only really laugh with her inner circle. She’s the ice princess to my Ice Queen! Reassuringly, Girly no2 is a different story – I can make a giggly baby and am not inflicting just my seriousness on the world. At 5 months old you only have to look at her to make her laugh. She laughs when she sneezes. She laughs if you wobble your head from side to side. She coos and gurgles and blows raspberries. She permanently has a smile on her face. It’s lovely! Different lovely. The ones that remember no1’s seriousness approach with trepidation, and are delighted to be met with smiles. Their needs met, they’re not left feeling silly and are therefore much happier. 

Girly no1 has also inherited some of my other “quirks”. My morning grumpiness is renowned amongst my friends, family and colleagues. My diary at work was generally kept free until 11am. My family didn’t speak to me before midday for all of my teenage years. My friends bring food and tea if they have to talk to me before lunch. Girly no1 is the same. Woe betide the fool that wakes her from a nap. I would recommend you go stick your head in a croc’s open mouth first. Or at least change pooey nappies and whatever else needs doing before you absolutely have to wake her. I’m just about there on a new technique for waking Girly no1 but human trials are not yet complete, and it needs tweaking before we’ll get approval. Her sense of humour is different to other toddlers. I’ve lost count of the number of times an adult has tried to make her laugh and she has blank-faced them. I find it hilarious, partly because of said adult’s slightly huffy and embarrassed face, but also because I often find myself in a room full of laughing people not getting the joke. Correction – I do get it, I just don’t find it funny. I always notice at comedy shows that I laugh at different times to everyone else…the only other person laughing is Husband, though more often than not at me. I’d love nothing more than to find the whole world funny, I feel like life would be so much sunnier. But I’m more like the English weather, not a completely miserable fucker but not always sunny either. I find specific people funny, like Girly no1 does. Sister and Husband can make me laugh so hard my cheeks hurt. And I have a small handful of friends who do the same – Northerner, Jet Set, Princess Jasmine to name a couple – though even then my mood that day can determine whether I laugh and smile or am focused and serious. I want to make sure Girly no1 grows up feeling OK with this aspect of herself. It’s taken me a long time and great periods of self-doubt to reach this feeling, something that I really would like her to avoid. Girly no1 gets angry if she can’t do something, too. Flying jigsaw pieces are the norm in our house. Our neighbours probably hear “we don’t get cross, we just take our time” in their sleep. She has also inherited my ‘did-something-die-in-there?’ morning breath, but less said about that the better. 

I have made my first born sound like a complete weirdo, she’s not. She’s a loving little girl who, a lot of the time, is just busy being two. She has inherited some positive traits from me; I praise her because I want her to be proud of her amazing determination; her incredible empathy; and her drive to master all things. I tell her she’s amazing and funny and loving, because they’re the things she’ll think she’s not if she starts to believe the serious ice-queen references that will be thrown her way in the years to come. 

I often wonder at what point we drift into narcissism and whether our reason for producing is that we’re all so fascinated by ourselves that we try and make replicas…I’ll stop there as I’m sure someone more qualified than me has written on the subject and I’m certainly no philosopher! Having this particular little person like me, means learning to love all of myself – and Husband, she’s not all me. That frown is definitely his. In her inevitable periods of self doubt in the future, I’ll tell her that people just need to get to know her. There is nothing wrong with only giving away the fun, giggly side of yourself to the ones you love the most. Just ask Husband and Auntie!

Click here to go back and like or share. Otherwise I’ll become deeply paranoid and stop writing….


#AUNTIETORTOISEANDMYSERIOUSGIRL #THATSABITWEIRD
Auntie Tortoise and my serious Girly no1

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

 

The Gender Agenda

In the last few months, Girly no1 (age 2 and a half) has started to talk about boys and girls and he’s and she’s. It’s a very confusing time and I’m not sure she’s grasped it yet. She knows Daddy is a boy and Mummy is a girl, but she also thinks Auntie is a boy. I suppose she can be a bit boy-ish….if there’s such a thing. We’ll get there. Understanding the concept of boys and girls is one of those things we all learn as children, and important to understand biologically and grammatically. Socially however, the gender concept is one that is increasingly fluid. And in the same way race was tackled when we were children, I suspect gender is next to be tackled with our offspring. 

We were reading Biff, Chip and Kipper Go for Haircuts the other day. You remember them – the ones that do very mundane activities and make them last ten pages during which time your mind starts to drift. “I wonder whether your eyebrows would get caught in your pubic hair if the eyebrow hairs carried on growing and never fell out? How different would the air smell if we all breathed out a little bit of burp with every breath all the time? Focus Mummy!” It’s not immediately obvious in those books who is a boy and who is a girl as they’re all named after dogs. No1 was asking who each one was and I found it really hard to identify which was a boy and which was a girl without resorting to stereotypes like hair length, outfits or make up. The only other thing I could think of was going back to biology, but it didn’t seem an appropriate time to talk about willies and vajayjays. I am very conscious though that stereotypes driving the girlies’ self-concept and their view of others are formed at this age, so while we’re trying not to drive the boy-girl thing too hard, it’s very difficult to distinguish between man and woman without using some more traditional references. 

We ways hoped that we could bring the girlies up to be as gender neutral as is realistic in our life, releasing them from stereotypes we have felt constrained by and making sure they are understanding of others’ choices. If Grandad, the 6ft 4 house-building rugby player ever decides to arrive at our house in a dress, I would like it if they said “you look nice Grandad”. Equally if one of them wants to be an international cricket player, I would like it if they had the same visibility, standing and earning prospects as the men’s team. Sadly these are unlikely scenarios, maybe not in Grandads case, who knows, but I would like them to believe in todays gender spectrum rather than the binary view of the 1950’s. And as stereotypes are embedded from an early age, I want to tackle it from day one. Day to day it’s fairly straightforward. I change up pretty with handsome. I like to think that you wouldn’t be able to tell whether our playroom has a male or female inhabitant. I dress both girls in lots of navy and green; there is pink but it’s not the dominant wardrobe colour. In fact I dressed Girly no1 in so much navy when she was little she was often mistaken for a boy. I would tell people “Mark is 3 months, and yes a very bonny lad, thank you”. It was often easier than embarrassing them by throwing their assumptions back in their face. What we didn’t account for though, was other people’s contributions. We didn’t expressly state no pink, no dolls and no fairy princesses to everyone around us. And consequently have been bombarded with all of them! Girly no1 has 5 dolls already and all the accessories (including a bath with an operating shower!). She has fairy princesses coming out of her ears. She has books that glitter and sparkle. And an illuminous pink trampoline! I need to pause here and say the girls are not quite as spoiled brats as they sound. Husband and I both have divorced parents so she has four sets of Grandparents – as opposed to two – who don’t listen; as is a grandparents’ prerogative I guess! They are very lucky girls. I’m aware of sounding like a horribly ungrateful wench here, which I’m not. I just don’t want my daughters growing up to be Miss Piggy. We discretely combat the fluff and glitter in the best way we can. For everything traditionally girly, she had something traditionally boyie, if that’s the vernacular we’re using. For Christmas, she got a kitchen and a workbench (£30 from IKEA and second hand for £15 – FYI!). She has a fairy outfit and a Scooby Doo costume. A pram and a car mat. I am all the more committed to this balance since speaking to a Teacher friend the other day who reinforced our thinking and confirmed that the toys we play with as children influence our future choices. The reason there are so many male engineers? Because boys play with Lego and Mechano. Female nurses? Girls play with dollies. I’m grossly over-simplifying, but this has been proven time and time again and I don’t want my daughters’ future considerations to be limited because they only played with toasters, hoovers and ironing boards. I want them to build skyscrapers, be the future master of micro biology or uncover the history of dinosaurs, if that’s what they want to do. 

What we didn’t account for, however, was personal choice. And I’m pretty amazed at this. We bought our house and moved in just two weeks before Girly no2 was due and we wanted to make sure no1’s bedroom was perfect, so she had a little haven to run to when the baby crying got too much. That and somewhere she was happy to sleep so we didn’t end up with two crying children in our bedroom. I dutifully produced the Dulux colour chart offering every colour in the rainbow and asked her to pick some she liked. Her top three were Fondant Fancy, Waterlily Blush and Russian Velvet. Gleaming bright shades of pink! I did my best to push some other colours but it wasn’t happening. Much as it hurt, we had to stick by our offering and so gave her one pink bedroom wall. She’s naturally drawn to long hair, pink lips and glittery nails. She loves the Little Mermaid and Frozen. Ana, Elsa and that goofy snowman have hit our house as much as the next family. She’ll always opt for a bright pink dress over denim dungarees. I’m baffled! With all of our anti-pink efforts, it’s so unexpected. I’m not the girliest of girls. I do my hair, wear a bit of make up and am interested in, but not ruled by, fashion. I’m definitely not little-dogs-in-handbags, all-day-shopping and hair extensions girly. In fact Sister calls me a Hair Dyslexic. It makes me wonder how much of this whole gender identity is natural inclination. 

#boyorgirl #parenting #pblogger #mblogger #baby #mother
Boy or girl?

Despite our best efforts, some traditional views have snuck through too. Yesterday, we drove up to London to visit Sister. As traffic slowed to 5mph I announced our arrival in London. Girly no1 shouted in glee “Daddy’s office! Yaaay! See Daddy!” Well, that was after she argued with me that we weren’t in London because we weren’t in an office. Obviously the diverse range of people, tall buildings and ludicrous number of bikes was not how she pictured our great capital. As she nattered away (constantly for the hour and 40 minutes it took for us to drive into East London), she told me when she’s bigger, she will work in an office on the computer. I told her she could fly to the moon; be a doctor and look after people; tend to lions if she wanted; she could be anything she liked. She said yes. Then “when Mummy is bigger, Mummy can be home with the kids”. I was so appalled I nearly knocked a Lycra-clad-skinny-legged bearded man off of his bike. I have no idea where this came from. It hit me in my deepest core. Besides the fact I have some weird thing about use of the term “the kids” (I just hate it, I don’t know why, I just find it derogatory), I’ve worked since I was 16 and have a very successful career. So I wonder who has been telling her that I’m staying at home with these “kids” and is that all she thinks of me? I accept that she is only two and a half and cannot remember 6 months ago when I was working 4 days a week, but I don’t think I am OK with her only ambition for me as “being home with the kids”. As usual this is not a slur on anyone else’s choices, it’s just not reflective of who I am. I have taken time off to be with her and her sister but I want her to aspire to be like Mummy because she is independent, confident, earns her own money, and gave her and her sister a happy life, not because she stayed home with the kids. I took solace in the fact she still had ambition and wanted to be like Daddy and resisted the urge to try and explain work and maternity leave. But what it did remind me of was the importance of me being a strong female role model and figuring out the best way to do it. Particularly as I’m not currently working and am at home with the kids!

In the end, I’ve decided she’s probably a little young to talk to about gender specifically. At the age of two, there isn’t really a difference between sex and gender but when we get to a point when there is, we’ll tackle it then. We can talk boy and girl, but we’ll do it in loose terms without restriction and minimise the stereotypes as best we can. How we react in situations when the topic of gender arises is also important. The next time we’re in Clapham and the crazy man in a dress donning a red handbag and cowboy boots cycles by, we won’t point or laugh, we’ll just nod and let her ask questions. And when she asks, I’ll do what I do at work and ask her “what do you think? Why?” and hope her views are more like mine than my Nana’s. 

In researching this I came across this tip sheet that I thought was quite interesting and worth a read in case anyone is encountering the same conundrums.  

#thebeardedbaby #baby #parenting #mumblog #mblogger
The bearded baby

Seven Mumly Sins

Happy Mothers Day peeps! Hope you have had a lovely day whatever you have been doing. I have. I’ve spent it with my two Girlies and my own lovely Mum, who was my guest editor (and found twice as many typos as normal, thanks Mum!). Have a read, please share, like or comment. All tips on head protection welcome!

I was a terrible mother yesterday. I sinned repeatedly. I think I hit all seven sins. Girly no1 bashed her head 4 times. It was a disaster. 

The first incident was when she bumped heads with another little girl on a bouncy castle. I was feeding Girly no2 just out of sight of where it happened. They both came off clutching their tiny blonde heads with tears streaming down their faces. The other girl, who had a quiet dainty cry, ran straight into the arms of her identical mother who was already holding her arms out in a “darling, darling, darling” way. She looked at my poor little Girly, who was standing there on her own looking around for me with a big square mouth and an air raid siren cry, and started saying “where’s your Mummy” in an overly exaggerated-head-shaking-judgy-you-poor-neglected-child-kind-of-way. I ran over to her doubled-over, spraying breast milk all over the place and flashing my nipple repeatedly to the only two Dads in the room. As I got there I grabbed her with my free arm suffocating no2, who was then sick all over my bunched up top. The other mum didn’t appreciate my “well this is what happens when we put people that can’t walk on an inflatable floor and expect them to stay upright!” joke and glared at me accusingly. I guiltily held on to Girly no1 cuddling her but simultaneously trying to dust her off and send her on her way, knowing full well that she would again, 2 minutes later, completely ignore my warning to stay off the bouncy castle until I had finished feeding no2 and probably bang her head again. She stopped crying, nodded “yes Mummy” and ran off. She went down the slide twice and then, whilst I was trying to stop my nipple being pulled on like Stretch Armstrong, ran straight back on to the bouncy castle. We’re working on our listening. I asked my friend to watch her for a few minutes. Two minutes passed before she again came off with the mouth and the noise. This time she had fallen straight off the main part of the castle, landing on her face. I was feeling a little (!) stressed and, if I’m honest, angry. Who ever thought it was a good idea to throw a bunch of toddlers onto a hugely exciting, colourful fun box with a wobbly floor? They can’t walk on a hard floor and have no spatial awareness whatsoever. At least 17 times a day my toddler walks into the back of my legs, or the car door, or the glass door or the sofa or whatever else is right in front of her. But even if you wanted to, you can’t stop children going on a bouncy castle. They’re the most fun thing ever! I rented one a few years ago for my husband’s 30th – they’re great! But I was feeling little other than Wrath at the stupidity of everyone, ever, who had anything to do with making or providing bouncy castles for children. Hours later we were at a friends’ house and she fell of a chair onto a slate floor. More square mouth. More sirens. It took copious amounts of witch hazel, 4 episodes of Peppa and lots of cuddles from Mummy to calm down this time. Either I was suddenly a very neglectful mother (feel free to notify social services or send me a roll of bubble wrap) or we were just having a bad day. Girly no2 was at the time in her bouncy chair laughing at a wooden door. I was looking at her and trying to make myself feel better by thinking at least I hadn’t dropped her. She was all in one piece so maybe it wasn’t my fault. Keeping a 4-month old baby safe is pretty easy in comparison though because they don’t move. That said, she’s a sitting target for Girly no1’s lumbering body. I’m convinced that the reason no2’s head is so big and hard (it’s like a watermelon) is natures’ way of protecting her from her big sister. I looked at her thinking that I don’t want her to be able to move. I know it’s only a matter of time until she’ll be running around after Girly no2, I can’t bear it. For now I just have to enjoy her perfect bruise-free head while I can, being gluttonous over those infectious little smiles and laughs at inanimate wooden objects. 

Shortly afterwards I took Girly no1 up to have a bath with her little friend with almost the same name, we’ll call her Gorly, after which she had her final knock of the day. She fell off the bed onto her cup of milk. Again, with her head. She was distraught. I felt horrible knowing that she would be covered in bruises the next day. I watched Gorly with Envy as she climbed up on to the bed and elegantly slid back down to the ground. When would mine do that?! I put my poor battered child to bed and we turned to the only other friend you need in this situation….prosecco. Gorly’s mum and I chatted Lusting over the days when we could have chugged a couple of bottles then headed to the pub. Days when neither of us had that weight of responsibility for keeping little bodies safe from air filled castles and In The Night Garden cups. We greedily devoured our bubbles and some food pontificating over what we could have done better. Well, briefly. Then we moved on to all the places we’ll travel to when the Girls grow up and leave home. 

She’s woken up this morning covered in bruises. I feel horrible. I can’t look at her, I just keep cuddling her and kissing her head, getting her cobweb hair stuck between my teeth. We went for a lovely walk earlier and as she tripped through the fields and stumbled into puddles, I clutched her hand. The problem is that she just isn’t very physical yet, by which I mean that her gross motor skills aren’t quite as developed as some others her age. She didn’t crawl until her first birthday and she walked at 18 months. She was a bit Sloth-like! Whilst I had a nice relaxing first year, I pay for it now as she flies around after other children, often not able to keep up and so tripping over all the time. I’m fighting the need to add a Mum caveat here about her vocabulary or other skills – bullshit bullshit bullshit – but I’m not going to. Children do different things at different times. I accept that. My one is falling over a lot at the minute. Hashtag fact. I do have a theory that every time they go through a growth spurt, they are super clumsy for a few weeks while they grow into their new bodies. It’s like when you wear a pair of shoes that are too big and you trip up the stairs (that might just be me). We are just in the middle of one of those phases!

The best thing about Making Little People is the overwhelming Pride you experience all the time. I burst with it every day, even if they are a bit slow to run or they are caught laughing at doors. I sometimes think I might explode. In fact, I hold this emotion entirely responsible for the Mum rows and bitching we all experience. Fundamentally we just want to do a good job and we do what we believe to be right for our children. Watching them hurt themselves is one of the worst parts of the job but we do our best. We’ll all hit a few of the Seven Deadly Sins along the way, but that’s ok. That’s growing up. I survived didn’t I Mum?!

#SevenDeadlySins #SevenMumlySins #mum #mother #mblogger #pblogger #baby #parenting
Envy

BFF Baby!

There is no greater leveller than having children. Previously awkward situations where me and an equally awkward individual, with whom I have absolutely nothing in common with, are rescued with the topic of offspring. Instead of letting them think I have a leaky bladder and have to pee every 15 minutes, I can finally start a conversation that might not run out after three exchanges and an exasperated nod. Not only that but I can get stuck into all the important issues – poo consistency, developmental milestones, the impact of the chavvy kid at school (assuming they’re not the parent of said chav, if you don’t know who the chavvy kid is then this just got awkward….). The conversation is still likely to be superficial though, as we have our Mother image we present to strangers and then our actual Mum style – the one that only your friends see. 

My friends see and hear the truth. They are the ones I can break down to and cry over whatever has happened. The fact my baby has poo’d over my favourite cashmere jumper; or my toddler prefers Husband to me and asks for him when she cries; or that I locked my baby in the car with my car keys and it took me a full ten minutes to stop running backwards and forwards alongside the car hoping it would miraculously open itself (it did not). The friends I can tell these embarrassing stories to are the ones that really matter to me and I just couldn’t be without. People think it’s mental that Husband and I drove 50 miles out of South London to attend NCT pre-natal classes in the town we would be living in when we had our baby. In fact I drove because Husband didn’t have his driving license at this point. 100 miles (there and back) 5 or 6 times, often late at night, at 7 months pregnant. I questioned our sanity at the time but now I know I did the right thing. It cost me two speeding tickets, 3 points and hundreds of pounds in fines and insurance but you were worth it, buddies! 

I don’t know if anyone can prepare you for the helplessness that comes with those first few months of a baby. In particular the weeks after Husband had gone back to work and I was left with an angry, screaming spider monkey that made me cry all the time. This was the time when I needed good friends who really understood what I was going through. I needed someone in the same boat as me, it was the only real pacifier, the only thing that convinced me I wasn’t such a bad mother that my child was about to be taken away by social services. I needed friends that were also two hours late to every appointment because the baby poo’d, then was sick, then was hungry again and fed for an hour. I needed friends to drag me out for a walk because I had spiralled into a Kardashians black hole for 3 days on the bounce. I needed friends with which to drink copious amounts of tea and eat kilos of cake, the whole time complaining that we shouldn’t be and asking how we would ever get our pre-baby bodies back. Friends with which to drown in prosecco when we finally went out, cheers-ing each other on what a great job we’re doing keeping these little people alive. Actually, I was just another new mum with the same doubts and the same problems as millions of women before me, but being with people in the same boat to be remind me of that was vital. My friends have been my saviours. The number of times we have arrived on each others’ doorsteps in tears. It happened two weeks ago after Girly no2 cried almost non-stop for 48 hours apart from the odd 40-minute nap – my friends listened to me moan endlessly and pontificated with me over what might be the cause. One of them took Girly no1 to the park while the other held Girly no2, getting her off to sleep for three hours. They did this because they have been there very recently and they know how much it hurts when you’re in the thick of it. When someone isn’t in it, I think it’s easy to forget just how stressful it is at the time and they can be too practical. Your friends-in-the-same-boat know, and they understand. It’s not just the bad things, it’s the little tips and techniques too. How to massage teething gums; how much time to play with your little ones versus letting them get on with it; the exact angle to shoot calpol into your little one’s mouth to stop them spitting it back in your eye. It’s so important to have someone to compare notes with and make sure you’re not ruining your children’s chances at becoming the next Bill Gates. Or a nun. Or whatever they want to be. They’re the ones to drop a fresh bottle of calpol round when you’re all ill. Or to bring you lavender oil for your bath to help heal after childbirth. Or to lend you the toy bar for your baby Bjorn bouncy seat. Or to recommend the least offensive soft play places. How to handle your child biting someone at a playgroup. The list is endless!

If you’re to narrow it down, as a minimum I think these are the friends you need:

  • One who has done it all before – Cuzzie has 6 children and there’s nothing she hasn’t seen. From eczema behind their ears through to phlegm in their nappy, chances are one of hers has been through it and it’s nothing to worry about. 
  • One who has a medical background – the Paramedic is normally my first consult before a GP or health visitor. She diagnosed bronchiolitis in Girly no2 using just her ears – telling us what signs to look out for and when. She will happily look at any rash picture I send her telling me not to worry or to get to the doctors now!
  • One who has a child exactly like yours – really useful for checking you’re not missing anything. How are we going to tackle this (lack of) sleeping through the night? How did you make it through that 5-hour flight? Can yours unwrap a babybel on her own yet?!
  • One who has it much worse than you – you feel bad around this one because your baby is an angel in comparison but not only does this serve to convince you you’re doing some things right, you then have a new found love for your child. How could I ever have thought you were a bad baby?!
  • One who has done it a few months before you and remembers everything – oh yes, use this for teething. Put this in the bath. Don’t forget to chase the health visitor for that check. 
  • One who does it a few months after you – this makes you feel learned so that you can impart wisdom, crucial to the build up of your mum-esteem.
  • One who does everything completely different to you – “You did what with your breast milk?! And served it at your fire worship festival? Wow!” less of a friend, more one to challenge your thinking. And when all else fails, one for you to laugh about with your normal friends. 

I am lucky enough to have all of these, and I hope they each recognise themselves as being my very dear friends. The past 3 years would have gone very differently without them and I am thankful for every conversation, smile, tear and hug. If being a mum has taught me anything, it’s that we’re all the same when you strip us down and hand us a baby. All we want is for our babies to be well and turn out to be the best they can be. It’s scary and incredible and you need all the non-judgemental support you can get. 

#friends #bffs #prosecco #parenting #mum #baby
BFFs

The Square Root of Bugger All

This week’s blog is about achievement and how different that feels in normal life versus mum life. I am immensely proud of my Girlies but changing a million nappies just isn’t the same as doing million pound deals. As always I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you enjoy the read, I would appreciate your shares and likes. Oh, don’t forget it’s Mothers Day in two weeks, check out my ludicrously self-indulgent list here for ideas and hints!

Husband came home yesterday and innocently asked “What did you do today baby?”. I nearly bit him. Not because he said it with malice or judgement, but because I had achieved nothing. Bugger all. I did a lot, but I achieved nothing. I didn’t want the answer to be “well I did two washloads, 2 and a half if you count the clean stuff I put away, I emptied the dishwasher, kept the babies alive, everyone was fed and watered. Oh and guess what? I bought some milk. What a hero!” Even thinking it makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out. I’m a career girl, an achiever. My career coach once called me a badge collector. Yep, I used to have a career coach. The only coach I see these days is the driving-past-kind and even then we call it a bus because I don’t know how to articulate the difference between a bus and a coach to a 2-year old. 

The first 3 months after Girly no1 was born were an absolute whirlwind. Or a snowstorm. It was like I had been hit by a bus then driven over a few times. Getting out of bed, drying my hair and putting a coat of mascara and lip balm on felt like a genuine achievement. Making it to an appointment on time was like winning a BAFTA. I remember the midwife asking me what time I would like my goodbye appointment (technical name I’m sure) and offering 8 or 9am. My jaw dropped and I stumbled over my words. As if I could get out of the house with a dry and full baby at that time of day! “What do you have after 11?” I mumbled. My days were one mass of feeding and changing nappies and clothes that left no time for anything else. Husband picked up washing, tidying and cooking while I lurched from one sofa to the other looking like Worzel Gummidge and wearing eau de puke. My achievements were measured in the number of minutes my head could be in contact with my pillow and whether my baby and I managed to get any milk into her mouth via my Spacehopper boob that day. Eventually, around the four month mark, the fog, wind and snow started to clear and I settled into a new rhythm with my new baby. I was quite heavy on routine so predictable naps gave me time to get things done. Once I finished the True Blood box set and she started sleeping through, I started to do some things. Initially I was over-ambitious booking in two friends a day as well as trying to keep on top of the house. But after burnt dinners, smelly washloads and my persistent lateness for everything, I calmed it down. I made a deal with myself to use one of the naps to do something I wanted to do (like teaching myself how to do winged eyeliner – badly!) and the other one I would do something housey. I learnt to be proud if I did a washload or made dinner, and if I made one social thing or an appointment on time. I finally felt some sense of achievement, like I was re-gaining some control. By the fifth or sixth month, I was used to my new life. Then the niggle set in. I felt like I wasn’t really achieving anything, I was just going through the motions each day. But I went back to work and after a few months of figuring it all out, I was once again satisfied that I was moving forward. After briefly tipping over to the doing-too-much end again, I worked out the balance and really started to enjoy both parts of my life. 

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My Worzel Gummidge Phase

This time around, with Girly no2, I have taken a year off. I’m in the sixth month off work and ‘the niggle’ has kicked in. I am acutely aware of the transition from running multi-million pound businesses to bouncing two soggy small people on my knees, the biggest challenge now being bouncing one child so vigorously that she is thrown to the floor in a heap of giggles whilst the other is bounced enough to keep her quiet but not so much so that her head falls off. There is no getting away from the fact that this time last year, I won £30 million pound contract; today I went to a soft play for 90 minutes with a slight hangover and I didn’t kill anyone. This time last year I successfully coached someone into a senior manager role; this week I taught my baby to growl like the kid in the Exorcist. The achievements are incomparable! I am not saying that their achievements are nonsense, they are things that make my heart burst. It is almost impossible to put into words the glory and elation that comes from watching your little person sing a whole song from beginning to end. Or the first time they tell you (the truth) about their day and who knocked over their tower (who is this Amy character?!). Or when they finish a jigsaw puzzle that you previously had to help them with. It’s not the same as your personal achievements because these ones are wrapped in pride and a love that you don’t get from anything else. It makes your chest ache. It makes you smile uncontrollably, those ones that creep up through your jaw. But, and there is a but, it’s not the same as achieving things for yourself. And I need that. 

This time, I am handling my niggle differently. I opted to take 12 months off so that I could be with Girly no2 and Girly no1, they’re both so young and they need their Mummy. A lot! I am sometimes keeping on top of the house, and sometimes achieving something for myself (this blog!) but I am very conscious of the Girlies not just being on a list of things to check off. When I’ve stopped breast feeding I will take an afternoon to work on my own things while Husband has the girls, I’ll continue learning to code, maybe even write a book! The rest of the time though, I will be with them, play with them and I will indulge in their achievements. There will be time in the future for me to continue to satisfy my needs. 12 months is a really short time and we all know how quickly it goes by. So the next time Husband asks “what did you do today?” Instead of biting him, I will tell the truth with pride. I did bugger all, Husband. Bugger all. 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday