So not Insta-cool

Like a beloved Goldfish, my career has been swimming in circles for the last 3 years since I returned to work part-time following the arrival of The Eldest. The BSCB then sounded the death knell and it’s officially now floating belly up, ready to be wrapped in a tissue and unceremoniously dumped down the bog. So, like any other modern mum suffering an existential crisis of “Who am I? What am I going to do?” not to mention, “How am I going to pay for my tea and cake now that’s all I will be doing?” (right? Because that’s what stay-at-home mums do all day) I decided to start a blog and set up an Instagram account because clearly that would help.  They will both be one month old on Tuesday and just like the first month of parenting it has been a steep learning curve that I’ve crashed off the edge of once or twice.

The similarity to parenting is startling, actually. Just like in the first flush of rose-tinted love for a newborn, I felt excited to get to know, albeit through the lens of an iPhone, a new Girl Gang who make me feel proud to be a woman (to be fair this is a bit disingenuous as my experience of the early days of parenting was dominated less by a rosy glow and more by seven-shades-of-shit how do we do this and stay alive?) The wit, determination, business acumen, creativity and general ballsiness of these women has excited and inspired me.  But then the baby started to grow, and sucked me dry of time, and generally made me feel a bit crappy because everyone else seemed to be doing it better that I was.

Within days of setting up my account I found myself carrying my phone with a dedication that has hitherto alluded me. It has been an eternal source of frustration for the “husband” that I am often so far away from my phone that I might as well step back to the 80s. On one occasion, when I was heavily pregnant with the BSCB and he couldn’t get hold of me, he actually called our neighbour (who was also heavily pregnant) and got her to come and check I wasn’t in labour (one thing, dear “husband” – if I was in labour I’m pretty sure calling you would be fairly top of the agenda). Anyway, it transpired that small fingers had put my phone onto airplane mode which was why all calls were going straight to answer phone. There is no danger of that happening these days. In fact, over the weekend, I was asking my daughter some random questions, one of which was “What does mummy like to do?” Her answer? “Play with her phone.” I was mortified. Safe to say that the “husband” can now reach me whenever he likes but I’m not sure I like the trade-off.

Despite these early signs of addictive behaviour let’s not ignore the positives of joining the 21st Century and doing something internet-y. Thanks to IG I have developed some #mumcrushes on women like @dresslikeamum who walk the gridded streets of Instagram with style and accomplishment. This one-woman-band is determined to change the image of what it means to dress like a mum and not only does she have her very own wall, but she also manages to find the time to take a picture of herself standing in front of it wearing a different outfit every day. With a camera. And a tripod. Also with “a wall” is @mother_pukka who blogs and vlogs with considerable aplomb about #parentingtheshitoutoflife . My tiny mind boggles. How do these women manage to dress, apply makeup, care for small people, work, set up what can only be called equipment AND take photos/videos of themselves every day? The only thing I can commit to doing daily is going for a wee, and even then I’ve cut down on how much I drink in order to remove trips to the toilet out of the list of obstacles I have to face.

Another Instagram woman who I love to follow is @midwifeyhooper. Now, I’m pretty confident that she doesn’t know this but I actually know @midwifeyhooper, (from a distance anyway) as she was part of the team of midwives whose care I was under for the birth of the BSCB. While she didn’t actually deliver him, I feel the fact that there was a very real chance that she might have seen my foof means that we are connected, sort of. Currently on maternity leave with twin baby girls, as well as being mum to two older girls, @midwifeyhooper sports an immaculate bob on a par with Anna Wintour’s that leads me to believe only one of two things can be true – it’s a wig, or she’s a superhero.

The list of cool, intelligent, empathetic and most of all supportive, women goes on and on – @theyesmummum, @steph_don’tbuyherflowers, @survivingmotherhood_  @peckham_mamma – they are all redefining what it means to be a working mum, and some of them have actually completely redefined what they do since becoming a mum. I could write an entire post about just how cool they are (and that there seems to be a freakish concentration of them around South London – weird). But my point is actually about how cool I am not.

Like the new girl wearing the wrong clothes and listening to the wrong music, I’ve found myself trying way too hard, and spending too much time wondering how I can impress my new Sisterhood heroes. Wandering around in the belly of Instagram, I have been getting steadily grumpier because like a small child in ToysRUs I want it all and other people seem to have it, so why can’t I? Over the last few weeks there have been countless incidents of Instagram induced rage when I have wondered why my life doesn’t match up to the lives of others. Part of the problem was that I didn’t know the rules of the game and the early days of my feed has several Insta-ugly pics which I quickly was realising were not going to cut the mustard. I needed to step up, but how? This was just what my life looked like: a bit messy, a bit blurred and just not cool.

Then I had a revelation. One of my new mum heroes admitted that at times she moves the crap cluttering up her home out of shot when taking an Insta-pretty photo. It just hadn’t occurred to me that the stunning pictures that people post are staged, or at the very least tidied up. And filters! Those things are magic – go ahead, transform a distinctly average photograph into a diamond-sharp, rainbow-hued work of art! Alternatively, a judiciously applied filter will turn your feed into a gorgeous tonal revery by using the same one for every single picture. Aha! I thought, feeling better for a moment – I can do that!

So, the next time the occasion arose where the BSCB was doing something amusing that I wanted to capture, I readied the camera but then reached to move out of shot the towels and dirty washing that were in the background (we were in the bathroom btw – as messy as life admittedly gets I don’t just leave knickers sunnyside up scattered around the living room). The problem was that by the time I had set the scene to Insta-ready the BSCB and The Eldest had descended into full-scale barny about who got to stand inside the base to the potty. Yeah…This was not going to work for me.

Another barrier to my ever becoming Insta-cool is my uncanny knack of getting the tone ever so slightly wrong. I have entered the @notonthehighstreet #maverickmum competition (who couldn’t do with £500 worth of NOTHS vouchers, afterall?) but what I didn’t do (which admittedly would have been rather cynical) was check the tone of the competition. If I had have done I would have seen pretty pictures of paint smeared tables bearing captions such as “A messy home is a creative home.” which had received the NOTHS seal of approval of being requested for their online gallery. If I’d have checked I probably wouldn’t have posted this:

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This poo marked the start of a habit of alfresco pooing that lasted the whole of last summer. My daughter decided that she would not poo in a toilet, or in the potette when out and about. I resorted to letting her squat in the street and then I’d scoop it up afterwards with one of the baby’s nappies. Oh the shame. ‪#‎maverickmum‬ ‪#‎pooperscooper‬ ‪#‎disgustingbuttrue‬ I photographed many of them. I will wreak my revenge. ‪#‎18thbirthdayparty‬

I still think this is pretty maverick, but it is a fairly typical example of how I’ve lived my life quite often just ever so slightly misjudging the tone of an occasion.

So, all in all, I’ve decided that I’m probably just not Insta-cool. I will admit that this has played on my mind over the last few weeks but I’m now coming to terms with it. It doesn’t mean I can’t paddle on the edge of the cool gang’s puddle by liking their images and posting the odd comment, but it does mean that every now and again I have to have a strong word with myself about the fact that they are probably not that Insta-cool either – it’s just that they are better at moving shit out of shot 😉

The Time Warp

Noooo, not that one, although admittedly now I think of it I’d quite like to take a jump to the left, take a step to the riiii-iiii-iii-iii-iii-iight… but I’m in Cafe Nero and I’m not sure the other patrons would appreciate my joie de vivre. The reason for said excitement? I’m OUT. Unencumbered. For ooooh at least another 35 minutes.

I’ve been super efficient – dropped off a charity donation of worn out clothes and abandoned toys, bought a new scarf and a shirt that I don’t need and actually spent time quizzing the shop assistant as to how necessary she thought it was to follow the washing instructions on the shirt. Handwash? Pah, as if! We agreed that the 78% cotton 12% linen mix could withstand a 30 degree wash cycle so I merrily skipped out of the shop having also treated myself to a multi-hued fox-fur bag charm – think pompom that involved killing an animal. I know, I know, it’s not cool, it’s not funny, but my only defence is that my powers of empathy have taken a beating after the last few days of hell-on-earth otherwise known as 2 sick children on my non-work days and over the weekend (for the record there should be a law against this. Illness requiring me to be the caregiver should only ever happen on work days).

The pain has been magnified by the fact that we had managed to engineer ourselves a child-free weekend – The Eldest at Aunty’s, the BSCB at Grandma’s. This had to be abandoned thanks to the mother of all fevers which has so far lasted 5 days in The Eldest, necessitated a 9 hour visit to Accident and Emergency and has now taken the BSCB under it’s sweaty wing. So, for the last 4 days I have had at least one child sat/ lying/ asleep on or next to me 24 hours a day, and have allowed the BSCB to face-plant off the settee, drop the laptop on his foot, and draw all over himself with my lipstick (which I only ever wear on nights out, so basically never, how the eff did he get hold of that?) distracted as I was by my efforts to keep The Eldest, you know, alive. Today is day 5 and while The Eldest is definitely on the mend, she is also a little too ill to pack off to nursery so I’ve had to take the day off work.

Cue amazing parents – mine and the “husband’s” that is, clearly not me – who routinely look after the BSCB and The Eldest to help us keep childcare costs down amongst other reasons. More to follow on that arrangement in another post but yes, I do know how lucky I am. Anyway, the Mother-in-Law (MiL) arrived this morning as usual to look after the BSCB which meant I could concentrate on The Eldest who was lurching between being a dancing, chatting loon who could not have looked less ill (annoying), and a feverish, droopy-eyed moaning mess who’s only decipherable word was “Noooooooo” (more annoying, especially as the fact she was ill made me feel even more guilty about the level of non-patience to which I had descended). Now, I’ve been a secondary school teacher for 12 years and I like to think I’ve developed fairly impressive levels of patience but seriously the last few days have sucked me dry. Fortunately, after a flurry of WhatsApp messages in which I self-indulgently declared my desire to have a few minutes, or an hour, or just 10 seconds, when no one would touch me, or say “mummy”, or wipe some unknown substance across my clothes which would inevitably dry and leave me looking like I had fallen asleep on a slug’s super-highway, my parents arrived earlier than usual. And I escaped.

So, with 6 minutes to go until I need to get back home I can get back to The Time Warp. Nope, still not that one. I’m talking about the fact that nothing is more likely to make time go into some sort of Star Trek-esque-warp-speed-ahead-Scotty-what-the-eff-it-can’t-be-that-time-already-other-worldy-some-sort-of-time-bending-phenomenom than giving a parent some time off. We dream of it. We salivate at the thought of what we could do with an hour of unencumbered time. We draw up mental lists and we then panic at the passing of every minute. We never achieve everything on our lists and we never get round to that moment that we fantasised about in the run-up to the time off (there is nearly always a run-up, today was an exception – these things generally take planning) when we sit down and read a newspaper, or a magazine, or actually have a conversation that is not a transaction of who is doing what, or feeding who, or when is it the BSCB’s nap time? We never get there. And we should. Because aside from the morale-boosting effects of actually taking a moment to do THE Time Warp, acknowledging this Time Warp might mean we aim to do less, and just “be” more. Not revolutionary, I know, but sometimes I need to remind myself of the importance of just stopping and breathing out my thoughts onto a blank page. I probably should have marked some essays and sent some emails in the last 90 minutes but I’m glad I sat down, wrote this, and became an accessory to the murder of a poor defenceless animal, because just for a few minutes I feel like an actual person again. Now I’ve got to go – I’m four minutes late.

In the interests of honesty, I actually wrote this a few weeks ago. Then forgot about it.

The road to hell (part two)…

To recap then, as I ended the last post, we had just climbed back into the car with rather different levels of enthusiasm – The Eldest positively skipped and hopped to her seat (she had her new Frozen magnetic pad doodler thing, remember?), I was putting a brave face on it but let’s face it was feeling a bit deflated, while the BSCB had to be subjected to an old-skool wrestling move and be clothes-lined into his car-seat – one arm planted across his upper body to pin him down, while I performed some voodoo shit with the other hand to fasten his straps. In any other walk of life, anyone who can hold their entire body rigid at a 45 degree angle would demand some serious respect. But he’s one so he doesn’t get any.

So we were on our way. Yay. No napping on the horizon and another 135 miles still to drive, I wasn’t feeling optimistic about us reaching our destination without screams and tears, mostly from me. But hey, looking on the bright side, I hadn’t lost my mind yet – that deserves some credit, right? Well, yes, except the only credit I could get was a bit like the sub-prime market of 2007 – built on seriously dodgy foundations, and about to result in a crash of epic ramifications. (Nothing like a mortgage metaphor to get the blood racing, eh?)

Well, just like Northern Rock found out, don’t give credit where none is due. Twenty-five minutes later we met another set of red rear lights… “No, no, no, no, no, NO!” I wailed (be impressed there was no swearing) and rocked my body back and forth in a startlingly accurate impression of the BSCB when I won’t let him eat the dishwasher tablet. A beat later I learned that my three year old daughter is way cooler than I’ll ever be: “That won’t work, mummy,” came this little voice, cool as a fan, “The cars won’t move, they can’t hear you.” And with her perfect logic she murdered the meltdown I was about to have. Killed it. Dead. Afterall, who can scream and shout and stamp their feet when the futility of such behaviour has just been pointed out by a three year old? I mean, they know what is worthy of this behaviour, right? Your toast hasn’t been cut into ovals (of course not! And how the eff do you know what an oval is?)? Let loose with your banshee wails and flailing limbs. Your plait is too low on your head? Go ahead, roll around on the floor and cry real tears. I mean that is shit worth getting worked up about.

Anyway, for about 37 seconds I kept control of myself. I then called my dad. Now any of you who have read The Road to Hell (part one) will be familiar with this pattern of behaviour – I get myself into situations I have no control over and can do nothing about but my dad? Well, from 124 miles away, he will extend his Go-Go-Gadget Arms (and if you’re not a child of the 80s that reference will be entirely lost on you – wow I’m excelling with the imagery in this post), crush whatever is causing me a problem into dust, and I will continue happily on my way. Well, predictably some might say, it didn’t work. In fact it made it worse, because unable to understand my own Sat-Nav I gave my dad dud information and he told me I was going in the wrong direction. I was returning to London. My past history (again, see Part One of this post) made this entirely possible so for a moment I believed I had turned the wrong way down the motorway when I had exited the service station. Then I actually used my eyes for you know, seeing, and saw the sign that pointed me towards THE NORTH. Panic over, I realised that calling my dad was useless.

We were stuck in traffic for another hour. There was nothing funny about this.

Finally on our way again, I realised that the next mealtime was approaching, so I decided to take a break from blasting up the M6 toll and visit another service station. Another act of Service Station Bribery was completed (stickers) and we established that the humous and pitta bread on offer was not of acceptable shade or texture. The Eldest chose a ham and cheese baguette to eat for her tea instead and we made our way to a table with bench seating and defended on three fronts by two half-walls and a window. Win.

While we settled in, I allowed the BSCB to crawl around on the bench seating, and with his head poking above the back of the bench, his best goofy grin on his face, and barking like a seal, I like to think that he offered some light relief to the weary travellers entering and exiting the service station. After a moment, however, watching people walk became too tame for the BSCB so Commando-style he knelt down and swung his legs down onto the floor (oh yes, he can’t do anything useful, like walk, but give him a drop twice his height to navigate and he’s practically Spiderman). Thinking we were safely defended by the half-walls and the window, I decided to let him crawl around for a moment.

During this time, The Eldest had decided that her cheese and ham baguette was far too tasty and moist, so had removed all of the ham and the cheese and was sat eating bread. Just bread. Both small people were safely occupied, however, so counting my blessings I decided to give the “husband” a quick call to update him on our (lack of) progress.

He responded with exactly the right amount of sympathy, about which I was relieved, and then he gently reminded me that I shouldn’t be swearing quite so much in front of the small people. Now given the day’s events, this was actually quite brave of him, but it also served to remind me that at that moment I was responsible for keeping our children alive. Looking down to my right, The Eldest was sat sporting a frown, an unidentifiable black smudge across her forehead and a uncomfortable looking bulge of dry bread in her cheek. Her momentary stillness also allowed me to notice that the back of her hair had been rubbed by her carseat into a grey-ish, fuzzy dred and I paused for a second to reflect on whether it would look terrible if I just cut that bit out instead of enduring the horror unpicking the tangle promised. No one notices the back of your hair, right? Meanwhile, the BSCB was still under the table. He had not yet made a bid for freedom so I should have known something was afoot but my wits had been dulled by the many hours on the road. Sloth-like on the uptake it therefore took me around 45 seconds of vacant head-tilted-to-the-side-mouth-hanging-slightly-open staring to realise that the BSCB’s stumpy fingers were within millimetres of being wormed into an un-child-proofed plug hole. Unwittingly, my obsessive covering of these in our own home had made the tiny holes all the more mysterious and alluring to the BSCB and the reason he was not crawling at Spider-speed away from safety and into the face of danger, was because he had found it right under our table. In an outer-body moment I surveyed the scene: I was swearing loudly on the phone while in charge of two children, one of whom was about to electrocute himself, while the other was doing her best impression of a dred-locked Oliver Twist extra and was eating dry bread. Parent of the year.

BSCB rescued and fed, The Eldest somehow satisfied by chewing on some bread, and a second wee/nappy change later we were climbing back into the car for the last leg of the journey. Both children safely strapped in (this time, even the BSCB had lost the will to fight), I took a moment to shuffle things round on the front passenger seat so that I could get better access to the mint imperials. Picking up the snack bag I noticed a wet patch on the bottom so swallowing my curses I rummaged around to find the offending water bottle. I promise I didn’t swear, but The Eldest must have heard me grinding my teeth or something because in her sweetest voice she asked me what was wrong. I explained that a water bottle had leaked and just to reiterate the point that she is far cooler than I will ever be, she said, “Don’t worry mummy. You can sort it out when we get to nana and grandad’s house.” My very own effing Dalai Lama there, strapped into her Maxi-Cosi Tobi was parenting me all the way home.

And we did. We got there. Seven hours and twenty-one minutes after we set off, and coated with a greasy film of service-station grime, we arrived in remarkably chipper spirits. My hopes for some Rest and Relaxation lasted around 5 hours until the BSCB summoned me to his cot side and if you’ve read Just go the fuck to sleep…Please? you’ll know that the visit wasn’t quite as restorative as I hoped for, but I’m always glad I visit, because every morning I get to wake up to this:

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Worth it

The road to hell (part one)…

…is the M25, then the M40. I have been driving from the South-East and London to my home town for nearly 17 years and on Tuesday this week I set a record for my longest ever journey-time. If I had been travelling on my own, then this would have been cause for mild irritation, but I wasn’t. My travelling companions were my three year old daughter and one year old son…

I am no stranger to a driving mishap. I have put the wrong fuel in the wrong car on more than one occasion, for example. Having to face the invariably kind and understanding AA man is always mortifying and without fail on these occasions I have felt embarrassed to have let the sisterhood down. Even more damaging to my aspiration to be a Capable Woman is that once, on my way home from university in Canterbury, I drifted into a daydream that resulted in me missing my exit from the M25 onto the M1. I carried on driving until a brown sign kindly welcomed me (back to) Kent. My brain fell to pieces so I did what any self-respecting 20 year old aspiring Capable Woman would do and phoned my dad. He was drunk on a train from a “work lunch” in Manchester and for a moment was unable to make sense of my tearful ramblings that I had been abducted by aliens. No, even he was able to reason, you must have driven all the way round… yes, really.

Despite these various trials and tribulations, however, never have I endured a journey quite like Tuesday’s.

Between the hours of 12.50pm and 1.07pm, I was winning. I was celebrating that somehow I had been on time to collect The Eldest from nursery, and almost all traffic lights between East Dulwich and Wandsworth had turned green as we pulled up to them. My good fortune continued and after around 40 minutes of driving, both the BSCB and The Eldest were asleep and I was enjoying not having to answer questions about the speedometer, the unidentifiable “orange light”, or (dangerously) look at every digger/ crane/ lorry/ motorbike/ basically any vehicle that isn’t a car, that we passed. My first error was to pat myself on the back for having my shit together as there is no one that fate loves to trip up more than a smug motherpunter.

All through West London and onto the M4 I bathed in satisfaction only to have my bubble resoundingly burst by the warning signs that there were queues between junctions 12 and 15 of the M25 – basically, the bit I needed to drive on.

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Oh shit.

My heart dropped through my weakened pelvic floor as I contemplated what this might mean for my carefully considered, heavily reliant on good fortune, plan to get to my parents’ house by tea time. For a while, it was ok because the children were still asleep, but my racing heart and twitching eye were symptomatic of the catastrophe I was envisaging if we were still at a standstill when the small people woke up. The traffic did start moving before the smalls woke up but it was too late. The precious window that sleeping children offer traveling families to bash out some miles had slammed shut. We had to stop, after 2 hours and 30 minutes on the road, just 40 miles away from our house.

Here I introduced tactic one of making sure that everyone stays alive during a long car journey: Service Station Bribery. Once we’d all had a wee/ nappy change we headed to the shop to buy a toy to keep The Eldest occupied while I gave the BSCB some milk, and hopefully (optimistically) in the car afterwards. In the shop I pointed The Eldest in the direction of the sticker books and other crap that would be sensible choices. She was only really interested in the giant bags of Haribo. Not sensible. While I was trying to convince her that a Disney Princess sticker book was the better choice (that’s how desperate I was – I hate Disney Princesses, especially that sap Cinderella) the BSCB absconded down the aisle. It was only the clatter of several tubs of jelly beans rolling across the floor that drew my attention to his antics. Short-stuff had targeted the only display within his reach and had dismantled it, while being watched carefully by a shop assistant. I mistakenly assumed that she would at least pity my lack of control but instead you’d have thought the BSCB had just shit in her handbag from the look on her face. Clearly, restacking some tubs of jelly beans is far more onerous a task that I realised. Of course I apologised, which received no acknowledgement, so having rescued the tubs of jelly beans from the BSCB’s sweaty grasp, I gratefully accepted The Eldest’s choice of toy – a Frozen magnetic drawing pad – and clammily scuttled to the till to pay. Sod’s law dictates that any shop assistant who hates you and your child will be the one to serve you at the till and thus it was proven. I managed to keep control of the small people for a brief moment but at exactly the moment that I was trying to insert my card to pay, the BSCB made a dive for the tubes of Soft Mints and I ended up waving my card ineffectually in the air above the machine. “You need to insert it” the shop assistant monotoned with an impressive amount of sarcasm for someone in the service sector as I wrestled the BSCB back into my arms. I fought the urge to stab her in the eye with the Soft Mints.

Bribery completed, we left the shop and headed for the cafe area so the BSCB could have his milk. I tactically selected a table in a corner therefore defended on two fronts by a window on one side and a wall on the other. I deemed this necessary so that I did not have to confine the BSCB to a high chair as that never works – I reckon given 3 minutes, a high-chair harness, and a dunk in a plunge pool, the BSCB could give David Blane a run for his money in the escaping stakes. This is a theory I have not tested. Anyway, the bribery worked like a dream and The Eldest sat and scribbled and swiped, scribbled and swiped.

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Service Station Bribery

I was busy patting myself on the back (when will I learn?) when two gentlemen, clearly in the middle of a work-day, sat down at the table next to us. Why? Why do people do this? When there is a whole aircraft hangar of tables and chairs available to sit at, why do people choose the table next to the lone female travelling with two small children?

Now, just to magnify my stress levels, the BSCB loves a man. Any man. They’re just his favourites, so when he saw these two unsuspecting souls sitting down and expecting to actually drink their coffee I knew we might have a problem. He, meanwhile, was as happy as a baby let loose with the Crayola “washable” colouring pens. His first move was to make eyes at them, gifting them his most charming (goofy – those things are like tombstones) smile. This didn’t work so he stepped his efforts up and recruited a chair to help him make his approach. I took the opportunity of having two free hands to take a picture that captured the BSCB’s pure delight at the racket he was making as he scraped the chair across the floor.

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Wait for it…

Looking through the eye of the iPhone, however, I perfectly misjudged the speed at which he was moving. A split second after I snapped my pic the BSCB succeeded in his efforts to get the attention of the men. He jostled the elbow of the man sitting on the right hand side of the picture whose coffee went everywhere. I was caught in the act of pointing my phone at the scene of a crime. The shame. I didn’t take a picture of this.

At this point I would have quite liked to have scarpered but the BSCB still hadn’t drunk his milk so we had to stomach the shame and stay put. My offer to replace the coffee was rejected and the two men, slightly soggier than when they had arrived, soon left us to our fortified corner position. Distraction departed, the BSCB commenced his more typical pattern of behaviour known as “find exit and implement escape”. With the unfailing logic of a one-year-old he focused on the gap between the wall and the window as his route to freedom. Gibbering and bouncing like a demented monkey, he shrieked and shouted in frustration at his failure to squeeze through the tiny gap.

Worst than the absolute scene he was creating, however, was the fact that so intent was he on “the gap”, that he refused to drink his milk. The shame, sweating and two soggy men was all for nought. Now I had to contend with the possibility that if we left without the BSCB drinking his milk, we would get half-an-hour down the road only to have to stop again – the threat of “This is your last chance” doesn’t really work with a one-year-old. Desperate, I retreated to the car where I was hoping that once he was away from “the gap” he would drink his milk. He did, but in protest refused to hold his own bottle.

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Screw you, parent.

I climbed into the car slightly clammy but also a small amount impressed that I still had not lost my shit at any point…I also still hadn’t learned my lesson about self-congratulation…

To be continued…

I admit it…I’m a twat

Not so much with the funny today. I’m sat in Tesco’s Family Cafe (the glamour) while my parents entertain The Eldest and the BSCB by sending them on errands around the supermarket. Well, this is what they’re doing with The Eldest anyway, I’m not sure what they are doing with the BSCB – he’s probably making a good fist of eating the trolley. He’s a trier, that one, I’ll say that for him.

This odd turn of events is because I think my parents have sensed that I am on THE EDGE. The BSCB has not slept through the night in weeks, he wouldn’t go to the fuck to sleep last night, no matter how much I said please, The Eldest wet the bed at 4am, and the BSCB then woke for the day at 6.15am. My back feels like someone is hanging me on two turning screws and is twisting them tighter and tighter thanks mainly to the entire day’s worth of driving earlier this week. It has certainly not been helped, however, by carrying the separation anxiety-ridden BSCB, and all of the leaning over the cot I’ve been doing at bed and nap time. As I look at these words in black on white I realise how pathetic it sounds when, let’s face it, there is actual shit going on in the world. To be honest I feel a bit embarrassed about my late night self-indulgent poncing-on last night. I could take the post down, but I’m not going to I say, in a perfect example of sleep-deprivation-induced-belligerence, because no matter how excruciating it is in its self-pity, it’s the way I really feel at times and I’m in this game to be honest.

I’m in no doubt that there are people who having read my whinge-moan-rant last night would, with the most reassuring (patronising) intentions, tell me that it’s all a phase, he just wants a cuddle from his mummy, and that they need you for so little time that you should enjoy it because, before you know it, it will be gone. Now that may simply be wishful thinking as I’m pretty sure no one has read it (WordPress tells you this sort of thing – thanks for that) but just in case, I have two words for you…

I KNOW (what did you think I was going to say…?).

You see, I am not ungrateful for my children. They are without doubt my single greatest achievement and will always be so. They make me laugh every hour, sometimes every minute, and many a time my face has ached from smiling that goofy smile that parents reserve for their offspring when they achieve something fundamentally inane like stabbing a piece of sausage with a fork. One day I might actually get round to writing a post about all the ways that they’re amazing because when all is said and done they rock my world. They are my world.

But, you see, that’s the problem. I need a solid square inch to myself. Just a little, tiny corner where I can curl up with my laptop and do something meaningful like online shopping, indulge in some Insta-stalking or watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. In that square inch I would sit next to the “husband”, my former partner-in-crime, who is now more like my partner-in-slime.

In a life where I am touched more times a day than your average door-knob, I am overloaded. I am all touched out. I know there are mums out there who manage to be pawed all day without breaking into a sweary online rant and I try so hard to be one. I squashed the feelings I felt this morning when I just didn’t want to ever get out of the shower and instead I plastered on a big smile and greeted the little vampires with a big hug. Which is fine. It’s what I have to do. Parenting is one long list of things that you don’t want to do but have to. No wonder parents through the ages have resorted to trotting out the age-old adage “We all have to do things we don’t want to” after all the only reason it is a cliche is because it is true. I am confident however, that the unspoken words that follow that line must be “I should know, you ungrateful little sod. I’ve spend your life doing shit I don’t want to.” So, I get that this is just what it is all about but it does mean that every time I squash those feelings, I am closer to the edge next time The Eldest won’t put on her socks (what is it with effing socks?), or the BSCB clings to my kneecaps grunting to be picked up while I’m attempting to, you know, move. Those feelings bubble up then are squashed, they bubble then are squashed, they bubble up and up and nearly bubble over and then they are squashed. But they don’t just go away.

Anyway, my reasons for writing this post are threefold – firstly, as a way of explaining my total twattish self-indulgence last night; secondly to justify my total twattish self-indulgence last night; and thirdly, because maybe there are other people out there who also feel bad about being self-indulgent twats, who can’t mindfully rise above the pressures of the daily grind, who find it makes them small and petty and resentful. I imagine they are nodding and feeling relieved because they realise they’re not alone in their twattishness and we can all be twats together.

Just go the fuck to sleep…please?

I stare at your face and I listen as your breathing slowly steadies. Your brow is still furrowed but smoothes as I watch you drift into the soft innocence that tells me you are asleep. Finally. I feel guilty. I’m sorry I got so annoyed. I’m sorry I said cross words and thought tense, cruel thoughts. I just wanted you to go the fuck to sleep…please?

You went to bed 2 hours and 15 minutes ago but you did not go to sleep. You thought it was a game to growl at me and drum on the sides of your cot, but all I could think about was how upset your sister, sleeping just across the room, would be if you woke her. You squealed and squeaked and yelled and shouted and every time I hushed you and said “It’s sleepytime” you lay down, smiling. “This time,” I would foolishly think but with a squeak you would remind me that you are the boss and up you would leap ready to start the game all over again.

As usual you are one step ahead and you have surprised me with this refusal to sleep. Waking in the night? Sure. That has always been your thing. I sometimes wonder if nighttime was your time to get the cuddles you long for during the day but miss out on because you share me, and you always have. But you always go to sleep. When all of a sudden you don’t, I have no plan. I have no tactics and I respond, conflicted, by sitting with you, holding your hand, patting your bum, shushing your cries and rubbing your back. I pick you up and hold you close but you dive away from me and want only to play. But it’s sleepytime, I plead, and torment myself with thoughts of the food my rumbling stomach and aching head need right now. I know it’s not your fault and I fight to press down the annoyance that rises in my throat.

I know you have been unsettled the last few days – we’re in a strange place, your daddy isn’t here and I think you’re trying to walk, or are teething, or maybe yesterday you had tummy ache, or you have a cold – you have sneezed several times today – or perhaps you no longer need two naps every day and your babyhood is receding into the distance, its departure both longed for and mourned. I haven’t got a clue and I’m over fumbling for answers and I just. Feel. Tired.

Your sister sighs and turns over in bed and my heart skips a beat. Somewhere in my thoughts there is the knowledge that this is all fine, no big deal, to be expected at some point. We’ve survived before, we’ll survive again, but these thoughts are drowned out by the shouting coming from the fighter in the tired corner over there who just wants to be left alone.

You’ve spent so much time next to, and on top of me lately. At times it has felt like you’re trying to climb back inside me to that safe and certain place, but I just need some room to breathe. I’m sorry I’m not the mother you need right now. I wish I was the mother who can find all the pleasure in her children’s presence but I’m suffocating here. I know that in a few short hours you will rouse me from my bed and I will come, dutifully, to soothe your cries until you fall back into sleep, sweet sleep. Right now though, this is my time. This is when I get to pause, reflect, off load and reboot so that I can at least try to be the mother that you need me to be. I need to breathe. Just go the fuck to sleep…please.

An hour has passed and you’re still rocking and rolling, blowing raspberries and na-na-na-ing. Ma-ma you venture, looking me straight in the eye, and then dive to the side, pressing your face into your mattress, overcome with the knowledge of who I am to you. For a moment I feel an ache in my heart because I know what you want and I don’t have it to give. But with a deep breath I tell myself that it’s only one night, that this too shall pass. I pick you up and I carry you, heavy on my shoulder, to my bed.

You’re delirious. You’re desperate for sleep to pull you deep into its arms but every time your eyelids grow heavy and your breathing slows who knows what jolts you upright. You dive for the light, the pillow, the bedside lamp, babbling and pointing incessantly like someone has hold of your strings and is gripping too tight. Little fingers, sharp nails, find their way into my eyes and nose, weave their way through my hair, then pull. I’m sorry I get cross, but it hurts. You thrust your hand into my mouth and cackle with glee. I just want to cry.

I’m not worried, exactly. I know there is nothing “wrong”. This is just something you need to do to be able to do your next thing, make your next leap. But I’m so tired.

You lurch around the bed, a tiny tormented soul, and I worry you will fall. The darkness pulls at me, edges me towards that sweet state of unconciousness that I so desire, but I can’t leave – you are too young, too innocent to be left in this world alone.

You start to cry so again I pick you up and hold you close. Your face falls down around its centre and you push me away. You lie face down and sob into the bed – you are so tired. Again I pick you up and this time your eyes meet mine and, crying so hard you can’t breathe, you wordlessly plead with me to help you reach sleep. I rock you gently from side to side and your breathing slowly steadies. Your brow is still furrowed but smoothes as I watch you drift into the soft innocence that tells me you are asleep. Finally.

Confused, I stroke my eyes over your face – what was all of that? Please tell me this is not what I am to expect every night, every day? I won’t cope. Then I recall the news today. I pause. And I hope I get the chance to expect this every night, every day, always.

Packing hell

Yesterday I packed up an entire car to travel to the North West of England for a five day trip to the grandparents’ house. My parent’s house should really be renamed the Land of the Duplicate Baby Item, except that’s a crap name, as I’m fairly sure that most branches of Mothercare are not as well stocked with baby shit as they are. Despite this I still manage to bring everything and the kitchen sink when we visit – it’s not that I haven’t heard of packing light, it’s just that I have a car boot so, you know, I might as well fill it. This is the main reason why I don’t catch the train – I lack the basic mental discipline required to have a word with myself and say “Step away from the megapack of 98 nappies. They sell nappies everywhere, yes, even in Stoke.” When faced with packing I find myself completely incapable of rationalising that there are things that we need, there are things that I think we need but we don’t, and there are things that I don’t even think we need but nevertheless find myself scooping into the “just in case” bag at the last minute. I have heard of travelling light but no, not to be found here. Never knowingly overpacked – that’s me.

So I awoke yesterday morning to glorious sunshine and a foul mood. The prospect of packing and travelling solo up to my parents’ house is enough to leave me feeling displeased at the best of times, but the feeling was magnified by the fact that the BSCB had had me awake from 4am. Let it be said that this boy has an uncanny knack of sensing any kind of “occasion” and will generally do his damnedest to make me as tired as humanly possible without actually killing me. So I’m tired, I’m grumpy, and the sun is shining – what better way to start the day than with a flippant post to my IG feed saying that the journey would take me 3.5 hours? It didn’t. More of that to come in another post. Suffice to say that the journey gave me plenty of time to come up with the following thoughts on how become a fully-qualified member of an entirely fictional organisation known as the “Packing With Children Club” or PWCC.

The first rule of PWCC, is that when packing with children around, try not to pack with children around. With this in mind I shipped The Eldest off to nursery from where I would collect her after lunch. The BSCB would have a nap at some point that morning therefore leaving me time to get all our worldly belongings into bags and into the car. Rule number 1: pass.

The second rule of PWCC is make sure your snack game is strong. Obviously, being a shit-hot adequate parent I had a bag packed with snacks such as raisons, those disgusting oat bars totally devoid of anything that makes them palatable to actual people, rice cakes, and other such relatively healthy food for the children. A shop run was, however, needed for me. I had a 3.5 hour driving journey ahead of me, I reasoned, I deserved to eat some shit that would make me feel like crap an hour after consuming it. And here entered my first conundrum. Up until October last year, The Eldest never really gave four fingers of fudge about food. Admittedly this was stressful at times (like every day, three times a day) but it did mean that wolfing down a giant bag of Wotsits, followed by a Wispa bar and half a bag of Haribo in front of her has never given much cause for concern. Then Halloween went and ruined it all. These days if I ever want to eat something that is bad for me, I either have to share it, or snaffle it in secret behind the fridge door (tbh, even this isn’t fool proof as she sometimes sniffs my breath…) So, when looking at the sweets and crisps aisle in the local supermarket, I was faced with the following choices (1) Buy what I actually wanted and then have to share with The Eldest, which would then make the BSCB scream as he is basically a dustbin, or (2) Make do with a packet of mint imperials and a bottle of water. Reluctantly I opted for the bag of mints as the thought of listening to the BSCB perform as a Chewbacca tribute act for several junctions of the M25 was horrible enough to quench my thirst for the sweet stuff. Rule number 2: fail.

Now before I continue, my personal integrity insists that at this point I reassess my level of success for rule 1. Upon returning home after the nursery run the BSCB refused to fall asleep. He went quiet for around 10 minutes so I started to gather our belongings together having patted myself on the back for my excellent planning. Then a crow squawking in the garden set off a chain reaction that meant that after 20 minutes of ignoring him, I had to accept that he was not asleep and get him out of bed…Resit rule number 1: partial fail.

The third rule of PWCC is to choose the right bags. Contrary to general packing consensus, the right bag is one with no zip. Zips are only necessary if you are travelling in a manner which brings your belongings into close contact with other people i.e bus, train, aeroplane. The beauty of travelling by car is that the best kind of bag is one of those massive blue IKEA bags as they allow generous access for the grab-everything-clean-off-the-clothes-airer-and-fling-it-into-a-bag style of packing that I prefer. I used to pack properly – I would fold clothes, and put shoes into those little cotton bags. Now I have children. So, to recap, zip = bad; no zip = good. Now, I couldn’t find an IKEA bag so instead I was using one of those big plastic laundry bags that you see Dot Cotton lugging around the laundrette in Eastenders. It does have a zip, but in strict adherence to rule three of PWCC I was not using it. This was a mistake.

Having admitted defeat on the nap front I had deposited the BSCB in the living room in front of the TV. During the 20 minutes that I had ignored him I had managed to pile all of the children’s clothes into the laundry bag which I had placed next to the front door. This was approximately a 15 second crawl from the TV but I felt confident that Mr Tumble would hold the BSCB’s attention for long enough for me to run and grab his “sleep sheep” and The Eldest’s star show. My confidence was rewarded when I returned to the living room clutching the world’s most expensive humming cuddly toy and the BSCB was still zoned out in front of the supernaturally smooth-featured entertainer. Realising I had forgotten the monitor however, I quickly thrust the sheep into the corner of the laundry bag, ignoring the protests of the BSCB who had seen me carrying it. I dashed back to their room, unplugged the monitor and taking a moment to reflect on how sweaty I was getting, I rushed back to the laundry bag. I was greeted by the sight of the BSCB clutching his sheep like some demented shepherd who had been plonked in the middle of a jumble sale. In his heart break and desperation to be reunited with that sodding sheep, he had half-emptied the bag. No zip = bad; zip = good (imagining you actually fasten it, of course). Rule number 3: fail. It turns out that you can’t fail rule 1, even partially, and pass rule 3.

The fourth rule of PWCC is to switch battery powered items off before you pack them. Having repacked the bag I heard the unmistakable (and slightly creepy) tweets and chirps of the sound setting on The Eldest’s star show. I performed a rapid cost/ benefit calculation and decided that the risk of leaving it turned on and the batteries running flat was too great. I was fairly confident that my parents would have spares but I imagined a scenario where sod’s law intervened. In my mind’s eye, I arrived later than expected at my parents following a horrible journey, only to find them without the correct size of battery. Gritting my teeth, I unpacked the bag, turned off the star show, then packed the bag for a third time. If any doubts as to the existence of a higher being linger, believe me that in that moment someone much higher was looking out for me. Rule number 4: fail.

The fifth rule of PWCC is to make a pile of everything you want to take with you (own) next to the front door. Effectively blocking your own exit will force you to take the time to recap what you have, and what you have forgotten – like your own clothes. To be fair to myself, I had packed a small (unzipped) bag but I had misguidedly left it in my bedroom which at this point had not been visited for 7 hours. Thankfully, adherence to the fifth rule of PWCC saved me from spending the week in my mum’s knickers and a dressing gown, while my only clothes were repeatedly washed and dried. Rule number 5: pass.

The sixth and final rule of PWCC is to park within easy reach of your front door, preferably on a driveway, especially if you have already failed at obeying rule 1. The problem is that I live in London, and even properties that cost millions of pounds don’t come with a driveway (mind-blowing, says my Northern suburban self). More often than not the car is parked down the street or round the corner resulting in an interesting daily skip of the heart while I try to figure out whether the car has been stolen or not. Thanks to this particular quirk of London living, London mums can often be seem doing the shit-yourself-shuttle-run in between their front door and the car, which they have double-parked outside their house to reduce the distance that they have to carry the world. A number of factors increase the riskiness of this maneuver: (1) Is the traffic warden going to “get you”? Lots of us leave the engine running and hazard lights on in an effort to make it clear that we won’t be there long; (2) Is the baby on the move? If the answer is yes, and he/she can’t be trusted to stay in front of the TV, the safest place for them is strapped into the car ready to go. This, however, results in risk (3) Is someone going to steal the car (engine running, see no 1 of this list) with the baby in it? And of course there is the ever present (4) Is someone going to steal the TV while I’m out here sweating and squashing the world into the boot of my car? Rule number 6: (a clammy) pass.

So, luckily(?) no one stole the baby, or the car, and nearly 9 hours since I had woken up that morning we were ready to set off. Having reviewed the above, I’m pretty certain that I don’t qualify as a fully-fledged member of the fictional PWCC – there is definitely work still to be done. Members do exist, however, and I continue to aspire to the packing-discipline levels of people such as mamalina over at http://www.mamalina.co or @mamalinauk. She might just be my (packing) hero. This pregnant mum of one  (do I need to repeat that?) has recently returned from a backpacking sojourn to Costa Rica, on which she took her young son. W.T.F? I’m in awe. I have no idea how she fit Ewan the Dream sheep and a battery-powered star show in her backpack but seriously that lady deserves some Mary-Poppins-style-props. The cynical among you may be suspicious of my motives for this plug, but I promise have no connection to mamalina (I don’t even know her real name – this internet thing is weird) other than her son wears some natty threads made by the wonderful @littleprintskidsclothing – now that’s a plug;-)

Happy Valentine’s Day

We’re marking V-Day by sitting on the settee, not touching, while I write this post and he reads the Sunday paper. This is romantic – the tele isn’t on. To be honest, we wouldn’t be celebrating “properly” even if we didn’t have two children running us ragged enough to be bit-part extras in Fagin’s gang. It all just seems a bit forced and, while I’m aware that this sounds really twattish, we also don’t like being told what to do by card and flower companies trying to make a bit of extra cash in between the actual “things” of Christmas Day and Mother’s Day.

Of course our relationship could do with some romance – after 13 years and 2 children whose relationships wouldn’t need an injection of some of the sexy stuff? However, I just can’t get excited about being bought a bunch of flowers and a card on a day that is basically made up. Now, if you have celebrated Valentine’s Day and are now annoyed at me, please don’t be – it is of course perfectly possible that I’m just twisted because no one has ever bought me flowers, or chocolates, or a card, or breakfast in bed on the 14th February. (At this point the “husband” is going to pipe up with “I have!” in an incredulous tone because today he bought me some Maltesers).

As a result of my lack of experience in this field, I am also rather uncertain about the etiquette of Valentine’s – is the onus on the man treating the woman, or is the idea that the man and woman are nice to each other? And if it’s a man and man, or woman and woman, who buys the present/flowers/ card then? And what if you are (whisper it…) S.I.N.G.L.E on Valentine’s Day? Well, there I do have an answer because there seems to be a concerted effort by “the media” to make people who are single on Valentine’s Day feel better. On my Facebook feed today a video popped up from the people at Stylist magazine titled, Why being single is the best gift you can give yourself. Intrigued, and feeling slight masochistic, I went onto the website and found several other articles dedicated to making people who are single on the fourteenth-day-of-the-second-month-of-every-year feel ok about all of the coupledom that is being thrust down their throat. The thing is, however, that while I appreciate that I’m not the target audience for these articles so you’re welcome to shout “what do you know?” at your computer screen, this all just seems a little patronising. I was also rather confused by one of the articles I read which was encouraging single people to go out and buy themselves a Valentine’s Day present. I mean, call me a coupled-up clueless fool, but the last time I checked, going and spending your own money on something for yourself, was just called “ going shopping”, right? Anyway, having now probably pissed off a whole bunch of people that I don’t really want to piss off, the point I’m trying to make is that it seems to me that there is one demographic for whom Valentine’s Day really is agony: parents of small children. And no one is making us feel better.

Admittedly, there is a chance that having met a person with whom we have procreated, the people who write these “How to cope on Valentine’s Day” type features think we have got it sorted. However, it seems to me that all of the traditional methods of celebrating this occasion are no-go (or at least hard-to-go) areas for parents – romantic meals (haha), special expensive chocolates (that only you get to eat and which are not deposited, half-chewed into your reluctantly out-stretched hand), flowers (or as the BSCB likes to call them, food) – all of these things exist temptingly out of reach and some are even accompanied by significant risk (the combination of candlelight and Disney Princess dresses makes me come over all hot and Health and Safety). So when our childless counterparts post pictures of themselves enjoying any of the above on the social media site of their choice, it doesn’t just make the single people sad, it’s also a thorny rose in the heart of the average parent. Couple this with the eternal assumption about child-free people that they have enjoyed at least one full night’s sleep in the last year, then parents of small people feel decidedly blue on this resolutely red day. And all of this, of course, assumes that you are still in a relationship with the person you had sex with and made another person. Eff me – imagine what V-Day is like for people who are single AND have small children?

Anyway, in a weird kind of backlash, a bit like the non-mumsy mums who are currently taking over the internet, there are people out there who take pleasure in marking Valentine’s day in rather less typical ways. A trip to Ikea? A £5 Superdrug voucher? A cross stitch proclaiming “Come the fuck in, or fuck the fuck off”? Or perhaps some cookies with the words penis, cunt and cock emblazoned across them? No? Well perhaps you would like to celebrate by being sick on the kitchen floor at 3am after one too many on a girls’ night out, and gift your husband the pleasure of mopping it up? Rather less exciting, but equally unromantic, I went to a yoga class followed by a walk (I didn’t want to go home) then the “husband” went off for a bike ride while I took the kids to the park. We basically spent the day apart. BUT, and I reserve the right to be soppy, having said all of that, and perhaps having offended any number of different people, its all ok, because in my life right now this is what love looks like:

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P.S. This is not comment on the state of my relationship btw – I am under strict instructions not to post anything where the “husband” is recognisable…

The Name Game.

Last weekend we went for a late breakfast in our favourite cafe. Having completed the “Arrivals Dance”, (take our own coats off; take their coats off; balance the coats on the back of pushchair; wheel said pushchair out of the way; secure BSCB in a high chair; pick up the hats, scarves, and gloves which have been scattered across the floor by The Eldest; extricate The Eldest’s fingers from the sugar bowl/ tongue from the pepper grinder; remove all breakable items from the alarmingly wide destruction zone around the BSCB; swap chairs with the table next door because The Eldest wants the pink chair and its really not worth the argument; and deal with the demands for apple juice that are increasing in volume by the second) we finally sat down, sweating, only for The Eldest to pipe up “Mummyyyy IIII neeed a pooooo.” I took one for the team and scarpered to the toilet so The Eldest could do her business (“Close your eyes mummy. Close your eyes and face the wall.”) while the “husband” settled in with the BSCB for company.

Where we live is one of London’s Nappy Valleys therefore it was not particularly surprising that upon my return I realised that the couple we were sharing the table with were expecting a baby. As I sat down, the “Husband” was dutifully perpetuating the myth that parenthood can be neatly summed up with the words “Yeah, it’s hard, but it’s worth it”, when the father-to-be surprised us somewhat with a comment that one of his most pressing concerns was choosing a name. Well. I practically choked swallowing my immediate response of “Jeffin’ ‘ell, mate, there’s a lot more to worry about than that!” and instead replaced it with, “Oh yes, I know what you mean. We didn’t name The Eldest for four days.” I couldn’t see his partner’s face as we were having this exchange, but I imagine a jaw clench and eye roll being part of the picture as she contemplated her most pressing concern being how she was going to squeeze an actual person out of what had previously been a one-way street. Innocent of our incredulity he continued to express how heavily the burden of naming a child was weighing on him, and slowly, my superior-socks rolled down around my ankles as I realised that his concern was not totally unfounded.

To be honest, I am being a touch facetious in my mocking of this father-to-be, as the importance of getting the name “right” is something that bothers most parents, although exactly what “right’ looks like varies enormously. In our case, the “husband’s” surname is one syllable longer than the vast majority of Anglo-Saxon surnames. This results in some interesting pronunciations (my all-time-favourite has to be “Fannyraver”), and influenced our choice of names for our children. Our criteria for The Eldest’s first name were that it had to be short and familiar, but not too common. We hit the nail on the head. However, we somewhat blew the criteria when she was given a “cultural” middle name, plus my surname as a second middle name (going double-barrelled was not an option – making the poor girl learn to write that missive would be tantamount to child abuse). Despite our best efforts, her full name is 13 syllables long. Even worse, when the BSCB rolled into town we went even more extreme and chose a name that means that, when his “cultural” name and my surname are taken into account, he has a name that has 14 syllables and uses 20 of the 26 letters of the alphabet. He’s screwed if Twitter is still around when he’s ready and able.

When all is said and done, however, we are happy with our choices – we feel they are strong names that reflect our children’s mixed heritage and are names that we could imagine being shouted across a football pitch or spoken across a boardroom. Because this is the thing – when naming your child you don’t only think about your own likes and dislikes, you also have to consider what impression of your child people are forming when they hear their name. Don’t you? Perhaps we were being a bit “stiff” and over-thinking this but I have to admit that when choosing names we did consider their future, who they might become, and whether ascribing them a particular name might at some point embarrass them or worse, hold them back. What really interests me, however, is that some parents either don’t think about this at all, or have an entirely different set of aspirations around who their child might become.

I’ve been a teacher in South London for 12 years and in that time I have taught students from a wide range of cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. At times I have paused in astonishment at the start of a school year when running an eye over the registers of the classes I will be teaching. Of course there are the inevitable names, in all of their glorious forms, that pay tribute to favourite designers or alcoholic beverages, but I have also taught three brothers all of whom had the first name of Sir – thankfully, only the youngest of the three insisted on the prefix being applied to his other name. Not only this, I have taught a child whose name was CJ – short for Carrot Juice – who allegedly had a brother called AJ – Apple Juice – and a sister called Cinnamon. Now, its well worth mentioning that some of these children were absolutely delightful individuals from lovely, caring families. I don’t actually have a problem with parents choosing whatever name they wish but let’s be sensible, when Queen Ann (yes, really) sends you her CV, what is your first thought going to be? Then again, what do I know?

Soon after The Eldest was born, I went home to the mainly working-class Northern town where I grew up. To my surprise and mild dismay, every time I introduced her I was met with the blank look often assumed by people trying to politely disguise their distaste. The inevitable pause before expressing approval was a dead giveaway that the name was not quite having the warm welcome I had hoped its familiarity would evoke. You see, the middle-class London-centric love affair with old-fashioned names does not seem to have rippled out above the Watford Gap. The only association people seemed to make with The Eldest’s name was a dead Irish aunt or granny who had clearly had a hairy chin, or stank of piss, so unfavourable was their reaction. Obviously this did not shake our conviction that we had chosen a “good” name, but it demonstrates perfectly that, as I said earlier in this post, there is no one definition of “right” when it comes to choosing a name for your child.

To further illustrate that you can’t predict how people will perceive your chosen name, another aspect of The Eldest’s name that we had not really considered was that it is an Old Testament name. Just by chance, so is The BSCB’s. Their names also begin with the letters A and Z respectively, and on more than one occasion we have now been asked if we purposely chose two Old Testament names, or if the reference to the beginning and end of the alphabet was intentional. The answers to both of these questions is no, but completely unintentionally we have apparently created the impression that we are Bible bashing alphabet enthusiasts who have a fetish for road maps.

SO, despite my initial reaction to scoff at the father-to-be in our favourite cafe, indeed he had a point. The choosing of your child’s name is incredibly important, just don’t expect the carefully thought out reasons for your selection to actually mean anything to anyone else. More important than anything else is that you choose something that feels good to you.

#MUMboss

Since joining the wonderful world of the inter web back in February this year I have been stunned at the proliferation of women who are truly BOSSING their lives. The lack of options presented by the traditional workplace once “Project Procreation”, as Mother_Pukka would put it, has commenced has pushed a whole section of the female population into harnessing Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to make, bake, blog, vlog, stock, curate and picture-take in an effort to make work, work for them.

And it’s easy to feel a little, well, demoralised. I, for one, am no #MUMboss and while many of the women I follow and admire post images and captions telling the hoards that being a mum is enough, it remains incredibly difficult to ignore the word “just” that is so glaringly absent from that sentence. We keep being warned about the “glorification of busy” and yet ironically, the people warning us about the dangers of filling every moment and spinning several plates are the ones who are doing exactly that. And boy does it breed discontent.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am struggling to marry up my conflicting desires to be present in my children’s lives, while also carving out a meaningful existence that is just for myself. Call me selfish, call me vain, call me any one of the name that the voices in my own head shout out whenever my less sunny side makes its ungrateful appearance but the truth remains that I once was respected for being on top of my GAME. These days it’s an achievement if I keep “on top” of the laundry. And that’s a kick in the teeth, or perhaps shins as that might explain why I’m so often found crawling around on the floor.

But, just like that irritating mosquito that somehow managed to dodge the cloud of insect killer that you sprayed around your hotel room, which is going to suck the life-blood-energy out of you as soon as your defences are down, the whining drone of this mindset is starting to really fucking irritate me. I don’t have the time, or the resources to turn my many ideas into something tangible and I just have to accept that (and try to silence the growling noise that arises out of my depths as I say it). So with that in mind I have decided to revive part of blog post that I wrote a while back which reminds me exactly how skilful being a mum really is (ahem) and how like all mums I actually am achieving things like a #MUMboss…

The last three and a half years has taught me that passable successful parenting requires the diplomatic skill of Kofi Anan coupled with the business nous of Richard Branson. How? Well, the negotiation aspect of life with a small person is well documented – I imagine it’s much like giving misguided governments around the globe a strong talking to – but less well documented is the similarity between the average mum and a multi-millionaire business man. Prove it, you say? Ok, by my entirely fictional reckoning, just like a female Richy-B with marginally less facial hair, mums make more mental calculations about cost benefit ratios every day than the average CEO of a multi-national behemoth does in a highly-profitable month. Obviously I have no actual grounding for this claim what-so-ever, but I do have a three year old and a one year old, and most of my day does involve balancing the needs of “getting shit done” against “can the baby kill himself doing that?”.

For the purpose of illustration of this not-at-all-completely-bullshit claim here are a few examples:

Scenario 1: letting the baby climb into the shower tray and dismantle the plug while I emptied the washing from the machine and hung it out.

Cost: cannily (accidentally) he was still wearing his pyjamas so the piss-wet through arm he got by sticking it down into the plug hole (weird plug, don’t ask) necessitated only the change of clothes that he would have got anyway.

Benefit: I hung out an entire load of washing without a small person under my feet/ dangling off the bottom rung of the airer/ recruiting the airer as a walker/ pulling off the carefully hung washing. I have a belief that if I hang the washing out straight, ironing is rarely necessary so this last point is key.

Verdict: win.

Scenario 2: letting The Eldest use the iPad while the BSCB has his morning nap and I “get shit done”.

Cost: ohhh tooo high. After 30 minutes exposed to the mind-altering influence of Peppa’s Paintbox The Eldest turns into a demon-child reminiscent of Chuckie, except high on blue-light and hunting her next fix.

Benefit: none. Nothing makes that worthwhile <shudders>.

Verdict: loss.

Scenario 3: writing a blog post during a tandem nap. The Eldest no longer naps but on a recent car journey home after a play date, both she and the BSCB fell asleep. Upon arriving home I carried them one-by-one into the house. The BSCB was safely deposited in his cot, while The Eldest was placed carefully on the settee in the living room so I could kid myself that I was not ruining bedtime by letting her nap (for the safety of your own mental health, please note that The Eldest has only started allowing us to do this since she STOPPED napping. Don’t torment yourself if, like us for three years, the merest hint of a brush of a sock against carpet as you crept past the bedroom door was enough to rouse your child from his/her nap: I’ve had five minutes sleep, you say?…! Well that’s just fine and dandy, let’s go party! There was no carrying her in from the car and I used to actually curse at passing emergency vehicles – damn you and your sirens that you use to get through traffic to tend to dying people…don’t you know my child is sleeping here…? Having said that, the BSCB could be dangled from his toes and blasted by Storm Imogen and still snuffle and snooze without interruption at lunchtime, but again, before you torment yourself with that thought, this boy hates to sleep at night. We all have our crosses to bear).

SO, they’re asleep, I have a cup of tea and write a blog post. It will only take an hour I say to myself. I’ll wake them up at 4pm so their bedtime won’t be too late. So precisely one hour and thirty minutes later I wake them up.

Cost: the BSCB fell asleep at 9.15pm, The Eldest strung it (and me) out until past 9.30pm <wince>.

Benefit: I wrote a post which gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling of achieving something that can’t be undone with the sweep of one adorably pudgy arm. The cathartic effect of this also spilled over into tea time when I had the energy to turn putting the cutlery away into a game…! Imagine – for a moment I felt like one of those parents who turns daily mundane tasks into games such as Who can put their socks on the fastest? Who can brush their teeth the most? and swear by the positive effect this approach has on their daily interactions with their small people. Now, I’m not doubting that it works because The Eldest always responds with unsurpassable glee at the chance to beat me, but is it just me who finds all the “enthusiasm” a bit, well, exhausting?

Verdict: slim win.

So there you go. Overall, that day was a clear win and it’s blindingly obvious that I’m just like a shit-hot business type person. Now all I need to do is figure out how to get the little buggers to pay me.

How are you #MUMboss -ing your day? Leave a comment here, on Facebook or Instagram and of course, feel free to share 🙂