Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best

Saturday, 21 July 2018

You Win Again: The Battle for the Third Baby

I appear to be surrounded. I am not exactly sure when it started but I am aware of it now. Everywhere I turn, there they lurk. I cannot seem to escape them. I am talking about pregnant women but not just any pregnant women, I am talking about the ones who are “going again”. 

I see them absent mindedly rubbing their swollen midriffs whilst gazing lovingly at the animated toddler who pulls excitedly at their hand while they wait for the lights to change at the crossing. I hear them chatting to the other mothers about how they don’t know what came over them; about how they just don’t know what they were thinking; about how their families had just not felt complete before laughing about how they are planning to march their other halves straight to the vasectomy clinic after this one comes along.

I don’t believe them. I mean I wouldn’t feel confident enough in their deceit to suggest that any male reader should put his knapsack on the line by playing the double bluff but I believe that they are sticking to “the plan”. "The plan" would have been formulated in their childhood, likely long before they ever met their significant others and probably influenced by their own number of siblings, whether positively or negatively and potentially by the number of siblings whom they actually like.* Sometimes another one is just one too far.

I myself was one of 3.
"Best till last" sort of situation.

It's no secret that, were the circumstances different, I would go again in a heartbeat. Husband, on the other hand, believes that I recall the entire pregnancy business through rose tinted glasses and am merely a slave the basic human instinct to want what I cannot have but then he is always fun like that. We see the prospect of another child entirely differently and on further probing (of the questioning variety) here is where I think we differ:

Me: If I were to be pregnant again I would know that this would be the last time so I would cherish every single moment. I would delight in the warm fuzzy glow that I would undoubtedly feel on seeing the glimmer of a blue line on the first positive pregnancy test, incredulous that it has actually happened to me. I would be reassured by the waves of nausea overwhelming me in the first trimester, safe in the knowledge that this is just a sign that the pregnancy was progressing as it should. I would wonder at my body's transformation as my tummy swells and my flat chest blooms in answer to its call to action; one final time into the fray dear friends. I would lovingly caress the bump; charting its movements and marvelling at how it manages to express its personality from within the confines of my womb.

I would not miss the things that I could not have or could not do. The soft cheeses, rare meat, wine and exercise would merely be things to look forward to in nine months’ time. They would wait. After all, it’s not forever. Just this one last time.

"That" feeling comes second only to meeting the baby.

Him: If you were to be pregnant again it would be a bloody nightmare. Sure, we would be delighted at the prospect of another child to add to the brood and that feeling would last approximately 24 seconds before you started reeling off the number of things that could possibly go wrong. Your face would go that green way whenever I suggested anything beyond toast for dinner and you would have to instigate “lying down games” with the other two who would politely ignore your requests not to be used as a climbing frame. When the activity and nausea took their combined effect the current offspring would then follow you to the toilet, refusing to allow you to hurl your guts up in the privacy of a locked bathroom, viewing it to be something of a spectators sport.

Then the “thickening” would start. You remember don’t you? Just before you actually look pregnant but you just lose the definition around the waist and you feel bloated and spotty. You'll tell me how "fat" you feel and remind me about the lecturer who described a human foetus as "the most efficient parasite known to man". You will shoot daggers at me when I mention exercise in which I may have partaken and want to discuss, at length, the statistical chance of actually infecting the unborn with Listeria from ingesting any of the foods on the NHS naughty list before deciding that you would never forgive yourself if you did and would therefore go without. You will then get annoyed with me for eating or imbibing anything on the pregnancy blacklist before muttering something about “solidarity” under your breath.

You will blossom, that is for sure and you will look great but you will not believe me when I tell you. You will, however, believe every non-medically trained stranger who tells you that your bump is “big” or “small” setting off a cascade of worry about how there is something wrong with the baby and demand that I check the size of your bump with a measuring tape from our non-existent sewing kit. But yes, "magical" is how I would describe it too.

So he may have a point(s) but they are still really cute.

Who wouldn't be tempted?!

*I do realise that not everyone bases their number of children on their own family and some base their decisions on far more practical things like cars, holidays, risk of multiples, houses, ability to cope with vTech for another 3years etc.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Come Together: Selling the Idea of Group Parenting

Now I don't want to make anyone nervous or fear that I am trying to indoctrinate you into some sort of cult which requires the sacrifice of a first born at every new moon but I have recently been thinking about the advantages of communal living. Bear with me.

We have been staying at my in law's house with my sister-in-law, her husband and their newborn daughter. Now, a hyperactive 4 year old, a somewhat impassioned 2 year old and an infant who is trying to come to terms with not being physically cocooned within her mother being couped up in the one house may seem, from the outside, chaotic or perhaps even a tad stressful. Honestly though, it wasn't. In this situation the adults far outnumbered the children and there were six pairs of hands to three demanding bodies which meant that adult ablutions could be done in private, hot drinks could be consumed whilst still above room temperature and role play could be evenly distributed thereby reducing any one person's suffering to tolerable levels. 

Many hands make less role play

Communal living meant that my husband and I could run together for an hour everyday. Now I realise that this might not be everyone's chosen activity when given a hour to one's self so replace "run" with "soak in the bath", "reading a book" or "catching up on the side bar of shame" if that's your bag, but it gave us the chance to chat, shoot the breeze, wax lyrically about our amazing children like we actually loved them and not through gritted teeth. Living with other people gives you the ability to do these things. Every single day! 

It also allowed me to take the edge off my ever present craving to "go again" by inhaling the newborn's scent and stroking their tiny, hairy limbs whilst they slept in a frog like position on my chest. I had all the joys of an infant without the torturous sleep deprivation, swampy feeling around the chesticles, drenching night sweats and tender undercarriage of days gone by. The new parents also got the opportunity to savour naps during the day, safe in the knowledge that, should their beloved progeny stir, there would be a number of loving bodies vying for the position of Chief Cuddler until they awoke from their slumber.

Just taking a big whiff...

The children seemed to thrive too. They soaked up the various sources of attention as efficiently as my socks soak up the errant urine around the toilet bowl whilst my son potty trains. In other circumstances when we have lived with other parents whose children are of similar ages and temperaments there have even been brief periods where we have been left to, hold on to your hats people, chat. 

The negatives (and we always knew there had to be some) would be rather vigorous selection process that would be involved. Your parenting prowess would need to be on par as you couldn't have Nigel and Bev from NCT consistently showing you up with their prodigy who has slept 10 hours a night since conception, gifts his finest cuddly toys to the local dog shelter as a matter of principle and is a self taught concert pianist by the age of 4. You need to find yourselves some parenting kindred spirits. 

In our case we are looking for a couple who rate fun and kindness over etiquette and tidiness. We need a couple who can appease an irate toddler while teaching a preschooler about evolution, gravity and breast feeding (she has some questions.) In return we can offer some strong voices during story time, a relaxed approach to feeding time and methods and a love of an early night, thereby freeing our alternates up for some nanights on the tiles whilst we hold down the communal fort.

We have even kept an eye out
for nearby properties

Nigel and Bev need not apply.
Mum Muddling Through
Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

Friday, 6 July 2018

Summer In The City: A Mini-Break to London

This week we are on holiday. Now, all burglars take note. Please, have a rummage and help yourselves to as many luridly coloured plastic toys as you can fit into your swag bag. I would personally recommend anything by vtech: they seem to have set their volume levels at that of a Slipknot concert but with less musical content. A must in every house.

Anyway, I digress, going back to the holiday with having been to France only a month ago in the company of a heavily expectant member of the family (who thankfully made it back to British soil with baby still in situ), we had booked a week off after the due date in order to make the pilgrimage south and welcome the newest member of the family. We had planned to spend the majority of the week with the grandparents in rural Shropshire, introducing our city children to the concept of country walks, wildlife and village fetes but with a brief foray into the big smoke to visit cousins new and old(er).

Country chic...

The first leg of country living was a success with unprecedented good weather and access to a garden sprinkler. Minutes of entertainment. The second leg involved an arduous journey into the bustling metropolis of London town where success was brief, intermittent and cruelly interspersed with prolonged periods in a car with no air conditioning that reached temperatures hotter than the sun.

The audience with the new babe as she wriggled, sighed and mewled to perfection (as only those days into their lives can do) captivated the toddlers' attention for at least 45 seconds before they were back to rough housing their, somewhat fatigued, uncle who had been weakened by the nocturnal demands of his progeny.

Minutes of entertainment...

Our next "adventure" took us across town to the Natural History Museum where the Big One was desperate to introduce the Little One to her "best friend" Butterfly- The T- Rex. There was much anticipation as we boarded novel mode of transport after novel form of transport; there was an actual Big Red Bus followed by a "Choo Choo" that went under the ground before boarding another that travelled above the houses. They were living their best lives.
When we finally arrived they ran straight in pointing to all the signs adorned with pictorial representations of the giant reptiles with cries from the Little One of "Mummy! Mummy! Dine-e-saw!" He trotted after his beloved big sister with complete trust that she was leading him to see something that would change his life forever. "Mummy! Mummy! Come! Come!" As we entered the darkened enclosure where "Butterfly" lived and she emitted a deep, prolonged roar he hurled himself between my legs gripping so tightly that I feared the sensation would never return. With pleading eyes raised he muttered "I a bit scared. No like dine-e-saw". We tried and failed to reassure him explaining that she was no more real than his toy Dog Dog, perhaps delivering two cruels blows in one day so we admitted defeat and went to buy ice cream.

Just terrified

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Queen's house, an absolute must in the book of the pre-schooler who has made the decision that an actor's life is for her, being that she hears this is the way to become a Princess. The toddler was easily swayed with images of Julia Donaldson's Ladybird on Holiday so back on the various forms of transport we went.

Four flights of stairs, three toddler tantrums, two cramped trains and one busy change later we were there. As I pointed in the direction of the gold embellished palace with the flourish of a magician's assistant I was greeted with a look of disdain: "Urgh, can we go home yet?"

So over it...

So back into our mobile oven we went just in time to sit in gridlock traffic before extending our journey by several miles in an attempt to rock the raging toddler into sleep, all to the musical accompaniment of "It's a Small World" on repeat, for 3 hours. 

Oh, if only it was.

Friday, 29 June 2018

End of the Road: A Pre School Graduation

This week has been a mixed bag of emotions in this role of parenting. I have had soaring highs with a perfect day of solo childcare; when all the stars aligned and we had beautiful weather, impeccable behaviour and exuberant health working in our favour. This was swiftly followed by crushing lows when sports day was announced 24hours in advance and a stream of meetings for me and a husband whose patients do not permit flexible working meant my little girl was left watching from the sidelines without a parent for the parent and child race.

However, all of this was nothing compared to the emotional torrent that was Pre- School Graduation. I had been more than a little vexed when I had to cancel my residential training course (which would have to be replaced with  tedious e-learning to be undertaken in my 'spare time') in order to attend a ceremony which is about as redundant as the cucumber slices I occasionally dare to leave on my daughter's plate, but RSVP I did. Fear not, dear child, I shall be there. The mere thought of leaving her, once again, to face a "momentous" occasion alone when the vast majority of her peers would be waving to their families in the audience meant that I was willing to appear, less than a "team player" in the workplace and forgot my previous commitments.

I will confess that I had no expectation for the event itself and certainly did not anticipate shedding any tears at the sight of my daughter bidding farewell to organised play in favour of formal education. I was there because I didn't want her to feel slighted. With only four years of life experience behind her this was a pretty big deal, she had been told so by those whose opinion mattered most; her friends and teachers. This was her being shunted into the world from the safe haven of everything she had known into a new and unknown vortex. Nothing would ever be the same again.

Then she emerged in a cap and gown and I realised that, for her, nothing would ever be the same again.

The Graduate

Having returned to the workplace when she was a mere 7 months of age, she had been part of this institution for the vast majority of her short life. It was everything and everyone, beyond her immediate family, whom she had ever known. Her nursery education was her only independent state; her friends and teachers were hers and hers alone. A place where I could merely stand on the outside looking in and would devour any morsel of information from her time there that she might choose to throw my way.

This day heralded the beginning of the end.

3 Little Buttons
The Pramshed

Thursday, 21 June 2018

What I Go To School For: My First Day at School

Yesterday was a big day for me. I had to walk into an alien environment, meet a room full of new people and convince them that I have friend potential; for yesterday was my first day at school. It was also my daughter's, but at some point a child has to learn that it's not all about them.

Best foot forward

Anyhoo, I stand in the playground with a mouth as dry as the desert, clammy hands gripping my bag and brandishing a smile that I hope radiates just the right amount of friendly but is potentially denoting a hint of lunacy. As I reluctantly leave the security of my toddler's hand hold, I feel exposed in my solitary state and have to navigate my way through the gauntlet of small talk with my daughter's potential new friends' parents. One minute I am terrified that I ooze inferiority amongst people who are far more experienced in these sorts of situations whilst the next, I fear that a stench of superiority clings to my person due to the unfortunate case of "resting bitch face" but what I am actually exuding is upper lip sweat. The holding pen which we have been shepherded, is built like a conservatory and has slowly peaked at the temperature of the sun. However, determined not to let my little girl down, I surreptitiously wipe my lip and broaden that smile, inducing a maniacal eye twitch that does nothing to reassure my peers.

Was I being measured up?

I desperately want to get this right as finding the right place for our girl in the education system involved long, hard deliberations, multiple financial assessments and more school visits than a workaholic HMIE employee with a bus pass. Eventually we chose to send our girl to a particularly lovely independent school. Now, where I was state schooled, my husband boarded and, quite frankly, we are both equally super and ended up in the same place and in the same profession (albeit briefly but that is another story). So I am not here to argue my case, defend myself and my family's choice or pretend that it's the right decision for everyone but for our little girl it is. So that is that.

However as a novice to the world of independent schooling,  I find myself fumbling about in the dark a bit; worrying about etiquette, my own ignorance and dress codes. In fact, as a person who is likely to be buried in her athletic wear, whose daughter stops doing whatever has captivated her attention this far to look her mother up and down with mouth gaping when she dons anything lacking the lycra stretch, a person whom has been known to frequent her husband's side of the wardrobe rather than her own; I will admit to getting into a little bit of a flap about what to wear on our first day. Should I look like I had:

A) Made an effort (giving the impression that I am ready to get involved - PTA here I come!)?

B) Just left the office (despite it being on one of my non-working days)?

C) Just left the play park ("check me, interacting with my prodigy! I only ever check my phone at nap time you know.")?

D) Just left the gym (suggesting that we have enough money that I don't need to work and can have my children in full time child care)?

How was I meant to look?! What was "the right impression"  to be giving? We should have been given guidance; we should have been given uniforms.

Too much?

This school business has got me all in pickle, and it's just because I want to get it right, for her, but do you know what I learnt from my first day? We are all in the same boat. Everyone was a little bit nervous and everyone was trying to make the best impression. I wonder what school will teach me next?

I Got This

Bringing up Georgia
Motherhood The Real Deal

Saturday, 16 June 2018

You've Got a Friend In Me: An Open Letter to My Friends

Dear Friends,

I am sorry. 

I realise that I don't call, email or even text you as much as I should. I know that there are times when you must feel like I am selfishly absorbed in my own little world and have forgotten the pivotal role that you played at that particularly bad time in my life or how we used to live in one another's pockets without even having to verbalise our shared thoughts because we already knew what one another were thinking about every aspect of every day. I am conscious of the fact that you have things going on, things that as your friend I should be aware of and should be there to offer counsel or merely act as a sounding board, allowing you to vent your frustrations or voice your concerns; things that I would be aware of if I was more present in your daily life.

Me: in your daily life

Whilst, I am not normally one to blow my own trumpet but I like to think that I used to be pretty good as friends go. I realise that my ability to pick up the phone has always been somewhat lacking, fearing the conversation unnatural and stilted, but I made up for it in other ways. I used to be good at just "checking in" or dropping a text or Facebook message when I came across something that reminded me of you or us. I used to make the effort to visit, even if just for one night so that I could see you in person, feel us ease into our relationship like we had never been apart and put the world to rights; solving everyone else's problems and making light of our own.

I used to be a good friend.

Putting the world to rights

Now I struggle to remember birthdays or anniversaries, even when I played a key role in the ceremony. Now, I reply to messages a week later, having received them whilst wrestling with my toddler who is reluctant to get his nappy changed despite smelling like a blocked swear drain and being unable to sit down for fear of sending poop into crevices from where it shall never be recovered. Now, I see or hear things that remind me of you and induce a smile and I put them on the list. I put them on the list of things to do as undoubtedly when I experience such a memory I will be herding the small people from one activity to another or in the middle of a very complex role play. Now, I think of arranging a visit to spend time with you and I have to sit down with my husband and work it when he can alter his rota to accommodate the lion share of childcare. I have to factor in continuity for my kids, resident training required for work and my husband's extra curricular activities at which point we get distracted by a child crying out, unable to sleep and seeking parental comfort and the planning is forgotten for another few weeks.

They can be distracting

But know this, I love you and I miss you. I do remember the way we use to be and I hope and pray that one day we will be there again. 

I ask for you to be patient. 

For my children are two and four. Their world's are hectic but limited and they are the centre of it and I am their moon; their constant. They are the best thing that I have ever done but they devour my time, attention and thoughts like I could never have imagined. They are relentless in their capacity and need for love and attention and I must be there to give it. When I am not there I am desperately trying to look like a professional in a job where I constantly feel out of my depth but valued at the same time. I am spread as thinly as the lactose intolerant would spread butter on toast but it won't be this way forever; one day I will be back.


One day we will have girls' weekends and extended conversations over WhatsApp where we discuss everything and nothing. One day we will get the chance to relax together and be us again. 

One day, my lovely, we will be the best of friends once again.

Mum Muddling Through

Monday, 11 June 2018

Walk the Line: The Mother - Daughter Relationship

This weekend I have been on a mini break and by mini break I mean that I have been bed ridden with a nasty bout of tonsillitis. Thankfully, this illness fell on the same weekend that I was due to run the Great Run Women's 10k with my mother to raise money for the fantastic Glasgow Children's Hospital Charity. So whilst I was very disappointed not to be able to fulfil my promise to the charity and my mother (who ran it anyway) it did mean that I was back at the homestead with a husband geared up for the role of childcare allowing me to retreat back into the role of the child and wallow in my ill health without fretting about which child was going to maim the other.

As I emerged from the confines of my bedroom 24 hours later (with the offspring safely ensconced in a city 40 miles away) and lolloped from couch to kitchen where my preferred drinks were found chilling and the ice cream was freezing, ready to ease the searing pain in my throat at a moment's notice, I started thinking about my relationship with my mother. 

Hold on to your hats people.

I was always a good child almost to the extent of, quite frankly, being a little dull. I habitually towed the line and would be racked with guilt if I ever strayed from the desired behaviour. I was convinced that the world is a karmically balanced place and that any questionable act on my part would lead to a punishment elsewhere. So I did the right thing. All the time. My best friend once told me that were we planning an activity that would test our responsibility as a group the first question out of her mother's mouth would be "is [Mother Almost Never Knows Best] going?" and if my friend hoped for an answer in the affirmative she would always say yes. The truth is, that the plan wasn't always to do the right thing (I mean we were teenagers) and there were many times where I would cry off and even ask my mother to lie and say I was grounded (having never actually been grounded in my life) just so that I could avoid doing the wrong thing as it would fill me with dread and a terrible stomach ache. 

My inability to bend the rules (never mind break them) meant that my mother eventually took things into her own hands and demanded my elder brothers take me out on a night out, a somewhat surprising turn of events as she, herself, was no rebel and the venue they were attending was not one for the under age and would most definitely be selling the old "dancing juice".

The point is, that we had no beef. We never went through "those difficult teenage years" when doors are slammed, secrets are kept and cruel words are uttered in the heat of the moment. If anything, I think my mother worried that I was trying to be too perfect, and setting myself a standard that I could never live up to thereby needlessly setting myself up for a failure with which I could never cope. 

When I look at my daughter and think about the loggerheads we get into, despite her only being 4, I am torn between thinking "will we ever be friends" and "oh I like your spirit". In some ways I love that she and I are totally different and I pray that she will push the boundaries (within reason), confident in the knowledge that she is good and kind and will never go too far wrong. It's just that I really love my mum and we are almost carbon copies of one another. She is the one on speed dial (if I knew how to program my phone) for any moans, pointless chats or good news; she is the one who my husband asks about when he comes in the door after a day at work (knowing that we will have spoken at least once since he left the house that morning) and she is the one who understands my parenting highs, lows and mediocrities. 

Thank goodness they get along

I want to have the same relationship with my daughter but worry that we aren't the same people. Then, I tell myself off as you can't birth your friends it's just that my mum and I got really lucky. It's just that I want her to be able to phone me up when something goes horribly wrong, I want her to ask me to help her plan her wedding knowing that I'll get it right for her, I want her to be able to talk to me about boys (the good and the bad) and contraception and her relationships. 

Basically when I grow up, I want to be my mum.

Like mother, like daughter

For those friends who read this and were lied to in the past, please forgive me?

You Win Again: The Battle for the Third Baby

I appear to be surrounded. I am not exactly sure when it started but I am aware of it now. Everywhere I turn, there they lurk. I cannot seem...