Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: February 2019

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Coming Clean: Confessions of an Untidy Mother

The times are a changing. We have laughed in the face of Brexit fear and made the rather rash decision to put our home on the market. “So what?” I hear you cry. “Who cares? You are not the first to do this and you won’t be the last. What is the big deal?” 

We are “live”

The “big deal” my friends is that we currently have nowhere to go. The "big deal” kind reader is that we have two small children. The “big deal” loyal souls is that we are not, by nature, very tidy as a family. In that respect I fear we fall very short of everyone else’s mark. I placate my anxious self with reassurances of “it’s not like we are unhygienic” and “we do have two small children to look after” but in reality I fear that my husband and I will still be resolutely untidy until the day we shuffle off this mortal coil.

Now I know that Husband will be reading this with a resolute shake of his head while inwardly exclaiming that he does all of the laundry and that every so often he does set aside a time to do an overhaul of the homestead and I will admit that he is marginally more intuitive of the jobs that are required before the situation becomes desperate but, and believe me there is a “but”, he piles. He piles everything and that pile will become part of the furniture; gradually moulding itself into the contours of the room. 

He, too, embraces the chaos 

I, on the other hand, am blind to the gradual deterioration but merely wake one day to the realisation that I appear to live in a squat; the surfaces are no longer visible and my children are down to their last set of pyjamas. I then get to action (following a dramatic and self loathing outburst) and afterwards, thinking I have done a fairly good job, smugly flaunt my handiwork to my mother who will inevitably rectify the situation to a much higher standard. Tidiness is just not in my nature and, unfortunately for her, she is used to it.

In fact, my husband is the only person who has actually learned to cope with my mess and I genuinely believe that is because, as with most things, in this we are equals. All flat mates (even those who were, and are to this day, counted amongst my best friends) ran for the hills after a few months of living with me. It’s not that I don’t care about my belongings (although I wouldn’t consider myself to be materialistic) but I just don’t seem to notice their erratic dispersal about our abode. If it were left to me laundry would be done on the basis of immediate requirement rather than a need to see the bottom of the basket, ironing would be saved for essential work items and the windows would be washed when it is starting to look unseasonably foggy in June. 

“What is this Mummy?”

I’ve attempted to rectify the situation and even had my fair share of cleaners but they all seemed to do a great job on day one before making a half hearted effort thereafter. This was probably my own fault as I didn’t really know what to ask them to do and, in all honesty, I was pretty uncomfortable asking them to do anything. The foray into professional help was short lived.

When the kids came along we just embraced it and put it down to tiredness, infant paraphernalia, toddler toys and the short attention span of children when it came to activities. We would spend the vast majority of the weekend outdoors and would rarely invite anyone into our house preferring to socialise at parks, cafes and other people’s homes. It wasn’t that we had dirty plates or soiled clothes lying around but the whole place appeared chaotic not just because of the “laundry couch”. There would be the odd occasion where we would have people round and remedial actions would be taken but descended into its previous state. 

Note the “laundry couch” in the background

At the tail end of last year we decided to sell our house. It wasn’t because of the mess, I mean, we’re not that bad. It just felt like the right time (ignoring Brexit, the ever present threat of a second independence referendum, job changes and night time potty training). We tidied, painted, scrubbed and put two car loads worth of belongings into storage and then, basking in our efforts, we invited the estate agent in and showed her around with unashamed pride. 
"Well you would need to declutter obviously...” Just brutal.

I see clutter, they see joy.

We are not ones to ignore advice though and two further car loads (including some unopened 5th birthday presents) were packaged off to the lock up. We were “live” in estate agent speak, “on the market” in anyone else’s. Viewings were coming thick and fast which meant that we had to diligent in maintaining the tidy state. Our drawers were fit to burst and we could find nothing but our house reflected a serenity that we could only dream of. It was exhausting. The children were routinely being hollered after to “hang that up!”, “that’s not where that lives!” and “we are trying to keep this place tidy!” It was fun for all the family but the only thing is, if we can’t pick up after ourselves how we can expect them to?

You can always try...

Saturday, 16 February 2019

I Want To Break Free: The Story of A Special Foot

This week we had to say goodbye to an old friend; a constant in our lives. The farewell was hugely anticipated and yet seemed to take us by surprise when it finally arrived. This week has witnessed the end of my daughter's nocturnal partnership with her "boots and bars".

Magic Shoes
For those who don't know, my daughter's rather difficult pregnancy resulted in her having been born with a "unilateral talipes" (to give it its medical title) or a "club foot" (to give it its rather archaic, colloquial term). It meant that, having been deprived of the the luxury of growing room in the womb, when she emerged all pink and shrivelled like a baby mole the sole of her foot was turned up towards her face like a flower seeking out the warmth of the sun. A pretty analogy but not much use to walk on.

We were forearmed on this one as when our 20 week "anomaly scan" had discovered just that the local health service had a plan and within a week of diagnosis they had packaged us off to meet the specialist physiotherapist at the children's hospital. Still grieving the loss of our "normal" child, we were ushered into the treatment room to discuss the next steps (so to speak) only to be abruptly woken from our self pity by the multitude of cupboards entitled "airway equipment", "cystic fibrosis essentials" and "mobility aids". This was by no means a worst case scenario; this issue was both rectifiable and non life threatening. Whilst we were warned that our child was unlikely to compete at an Olympic level or a perform as a professional ballerina she would walk, she would skip, she would run but more than that; she would live.

Totes profesh

So after she came along we trotted off to meet with our foot guru and have our new arrival assessed in person. The foot was no better nor worse than the physio had expected based on the scan and, as discussed antenatally, she would require a series of full length leg casts to slowly manipulate the foot from its turned in position towards a more natural sole- to- the- floor appearance. Now, keeping a full length cast on a wriggly baby is no mean feat (pardon the pun) and there were multiple occasions over the next 12 weeks when we would have to run to the hospital brandishing a cast in one hand and a startled baby under the other; desperately proclaiming that all the efforts would be undone were it not put back on in an instant. When we did eventually make it through the first 3 months and it was finally time for the big reveal we were delighted with the results. She had a matching pair!

However, we were then informed that she would need an operation to remedy her excruciatingly tight achilles tendon before the next stage of treatment could commence. So at the tender age of 12 weeks we presented her for her pre-op assessment having kept her nil by mouth for what felt like an inhumane amount of time for one so small. They too seemed to recognise this and she was put first on the operating list. We were relieved and terrified in equal measure. When invited to accompany her down to the anaesthetic room I could not face it and selflessly let the husband fulfil the role. He eventually reappeared looking haunted. He recanted the tale of how she had been all fighting spirit and then was gone; a limp doll only vaguely recognisable as our precious little girl.

Needless to say, several hours later we were informed that the operation had been a success and her last full length cast had been applied. Two weeks later, our relief at finishing the series of casts was short lived, as she was then strapped into her first set of "boots and bars". This apparatus was initially to be worn 23 hours of the day for a 12 week period before being reduced to 12 hours of the day until she was 5 years of age. 

She did not care for this.

Following her first fitting we decided to go for a family day out taking in the fresh sea air and a pub lunch. Being like any other 4 month old she opted to perform her necessary ablutions in her car seat resulting in every nook and crevice being infiltrated and a full strip and hose down essential and yet nigh on impossible in our current surroundings. My husband gamely took her into the nearest accessible toilets and attempted to liberate her from her new apparatus and rectify the situation. From my seat in the bar I issued apologetic looks to the other customers who were hostage to the ensuing cacophony erupting from the nearby facilities as my daughter let her feelings be known. Husband staggered out, battle weary and downed his (now tepid) coffee. It was home time.

Broken. Just broken. 

Having said that I honestly cannot recall another time when the boots and bars were truly an issue. Our little girl has always been open to reason and whilst she has questioned whether she had to don them yet again, she has always been amenable and understood the long term goal. Our long standing night time routine of bath, teeth, toilet, boots and bars, book and bed has become second nature and even the youngest has taken on the role of clicking the bar into place for his big sister before storytime. For us, it was normal but as the date of completion emerged on the horizon I saw, perhaps for the first time, how desperate she was to rid herself of her nocturnal companions.

The countdown was on.

5 years worth of "boots and bars"

Realistically there was no obvious reason why further time or manipulation would be recommended. She had passed every quarterly check with flying colours. She could run, hop and skip with the best of them. So, against my nature, I was cautiously optimistic where she was terrified. As ever, terrified of failure and of letting others down. She needn't have been. She received a big fat stamp of approval and was released on parole.

A happier child you never did see.

That smile. 

So now we are acclimatising to our new normal. It is taking some time and there are still occasions when we have taken our positions on the couch before realising that there is no apparatus required. In some ways I miss the feeling of having a defined, tangible role in helping her with the physical burdens she has to bear but these feelings are quickly dispelled by the sound of the pitter patter of her (unusually) tiny feet in the morning as she gets herself out of bed for the first time in 5 years. 

Everything Changes: Working Out the "Working Mother" Bit

It's been a big week this week and, no, we haven't sold our house. In fact, it is no longer even on the market which was both a hea...