#MumdayMonday: the mum of two

#MumdayMonday is back with a Q+A from the lovely Nina Pandit from mummyandnina.com . A 25 year old mother of two boys, Nina is British-Asian and started her blog to counter that all-too-familiar feeling many of us can relate to that when we become a mother, we somehow stop being ourselves. When the rest of us were partying and sleeping our way through university, she had already given birth to her eldest son “out of wedlock”, a fact that she responds to with “sorry, not sorry”. Her younger son is now two, and in her blog she honestly and thoughtfully explores the reality of parenting two small children, especially when your life has not followed the path expected by your culture. Go and have a read to find out more about this young woman (that sounds so patronising, doesn’t it?…!) who is wise beyond her years (check out her tip on “side-stepping the tantrum” – I’m all over it!)…

What did you find hardest about becoming a mum the first time around?
Nobody knew I was in a relationship at the time, so keeping my pregnancy a secret for 5 months (I didn’t show until 6 months) was possibly the hardest aspect of being pregnant. I remember feeling very excited and then almost instantly guilty for being so confused. I spent hours questioning whether I was strong enough for my baby. In retrospect I’m not sure how I did it, but I did. Parents have this ability to cope and I suppose that’s all that matters.

Were the difficulties the same or different the second time?
Second time round was so different. Those afternoon naps and hours of aimless comparisons between fruit and foetal size were replace with running around after an energetic toddler and having fingers stuffed up your nose and in your ears. Towards the end of my pregnancy I cherished the chaos, it kept me busy when I was overdue.

What is the best thing about having two children?
If one is being difficult you can go and hang out with the other. It’s a graceful side step to actually parenting the tantrum. “If you want to join the party, you have to be happy” is our motto – and who wants to miss a party?

What advice would you now give to yourself when you were pregnant for the second time?
Know when to ask for help. Just because another mother appears to be handling herself, it doesn’t mean you have to. The challenge is after the baby is born so rest as much as you can. It’s ok to say I can’t do this without a nap.

How has having two children changed your relationship with your husband?
My boys are intense. They take my emotions for a joyride and I love that about them; but it leaves us both feeling exhausted. So we end up spending most of our time together watching television rather than actually talking to each other. Conversations become an exchange of information, like who would be doing the pick-up or what was for dinner. Life takes over and we become so engrossed in our routine we aren’t really appreciating each other. We recently took a weekend break away and we realised we missed having kid-free fun together. And we’ve vowed to do it more often.

Has it changed your relationship with your extended family at all? If so, how?
I don’t have as much time to keep in touch with people from the extended family as I would like to, which is a shame. But I’m a huge believer that those relationships that are worth it stand the test of time. I can go years without speaking to some people and it’s as though nothing has changed. Those are the relationships I value the most. My kids are great at keeping in touch with people and I leave most of the family relations stuff to them. They use Siri on my phone to call our family members which works well because the family want to speak to them not me. I’ve been demoted since having children.

How do you deal with the inevitable comment “One of each, are you done now?”
It’s funny because my youngest is actually a boy (he sports a man/boy bun at the minute) but most people assume he’s a girl (yup, I did that too – sorry. Please insert embarrassed monkey emoji). So I get that question more often then not. On the flip side I’ve been told that I shouldn’t have anymore children because I’ll never have a girl and shouldn’t bother trying. Or people volunteer stories of how they knew someone that had 10 boys because they wanted a girl. That postnatal period can be the most emotionally vulnerable time in your life. The first few weeks of having my second baby I was so upset by it all and felt a bit broken; like my womb was broken. I didn’t realise my womb was blue with a moustache and only produced boys (but thanks for the heads up). I mulled it over and only recently did I come to the conclusion that the only opinions that mattered to me were my husband and my sons’. I am content with my boys. They’re good kids. We’re go-with-the-flow kind of people, if we have another that’s great: regardless of gender. If we don’t we won’t be unhappy.

When you look back, is there anything at any point in parenthood that you wish you had done differently?
Parenting is a journey and I don’t really wish to change anything; I’m grateful for who it has made me. But my eldest told me that I was an evil step-mother that shouts a lot and tells everyone to do chores. Perhaps that’s an indicator that I shout too much and get worked up over the finer detail. ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ is a bit of advice I picked up along the way. I’m yet to use it.

Is there anything that makes you think “Yeah, we smashed that!”
My eldest was playing with his trains and the youngest came up behind him, wrapped his arms around his neck and gave his big brother a kiss on his head. We’d hit a parental jackpot – they both have a friend for life.

Along with her blog www.mummyandnina.com , you can also find Nina on Instagram @mummyandnina and/ or Facebook  if that’s more your bag.

 

 

An anatomy of a Remain vote

I imagine that, like me, many of the 15,000,000 Remain voters went to bed on Friday night exhausted after hours of lurching between disbelief, into anger, out to reflection and the beginnings of acceptance, only to turn on the TV and see that strangely-stretchy-mouthed-Muppet-faced Fuckwit Fromage declaring that the Brexit win was a victory for “decent and ordinary people”.

I imagine that like me, many of those same voters shouted at the tele “Oh really? What the fuck am I then you unholy turd of a man?” while having visions of wielding razor-blade accented caps in our apparent new status as “scum of the Earth”.

In between herding and feeding small people, I had spent the entire day reflecting, ranting, and rehashing the entire god-damn-shit-shower-of-a-show and now I was ready for sleep. I brushed my teeth, had a wee and refreshed my social media one last time read a few pages of a Booker Prize-winning novel, before wandering into my bedroom. I was looking forwards to not thinking for a few hours and possibly waking up to find that the whole fiasco had been a terrible dream.

Alas, I had forgotten to make the bed.

After a few furious seconds of looking for someone else to blame I recovered my sense of perspective and realised that the best response now was to accept what needed to be done and take appropriate action.

Just like with Brexit.

Yes, you heard me. With a huff and puff just to make sure that everyone in the completely empty room was clear about my dissatisfaction, I came to the conclusion that making an unmade bed at bedtime is the perfect domestic metaphor for the shit-the-bed day we had just had in the Actual World. In seconds I had gone from disbelief to anger to blame to acceptance and finally, as I wrestled with the duvet, to action. And aren’t those the exact same emotions that we have gone through over the last few days when wondering how we, the Remainers, could have got it so monumentally wrong?

Stage one: complacency 

I live in London. We now know that London, unlike most of England, voted Remain almost without exception. During the campaign I kept commenting that I had only met a handful of Leave voters. I hadn’t met a single Leave campaigner on the streets of The Village and it appeared that most people were seeing through the film-flam offered up by Boris, Gove and Stinky Fromage. But something niggled.

Ensconced as I am in my multi-cultural, middle-class London bubble, I most definitely should not have been so certain. The rest of the country just IS different, a fact that usually punches me in the chops with every election debacle in my home town. UKIP? BNP? Oh, we welcome all of the undesirables in my homeland. Of course I recognise that this lies in feelings of disenfranchisement from, and betrayal by, the mainstream political parties, but ashamedly I also feel unpleasantly and smugly superior to these concerns having “escaped” by dint of education and good fortune.

Comfortable in complacency, the political establishment, and us its minions, arrogantly ignored the rustlings and downright ragings of discontent from the less privileged, more desperate parts of our country.   We allowed them to be flattered and pandered to by unscrupulous men in suits with alarming hair and “characterful” faces. And now we are paying for it.

Stage two: disbelief

I awoke on Friday morning to the news that the Leave campaign had triumphed and my oh-so-erudite first words were “Are you kidding?”

Throughout the rest of the day that feeling of disbelief reappeared repeatedly as we struggled to come to terms with the fact that our country felt like one we no longer recognised and no longer belonged in.

Disbelief that people, who feel like they have nothing left to lose, feel that things cannot get any worse for them, and who feel like this is their chance to stick it to “the man” who has ground them repeatedly into the ground, had therefore voted to kick him in the ballsack, is however, laughable. What is there to disbelieve?

Stage three: blame/ avoiding responsibility

I imagine there are times when we all seek to attribute responsibility for the thing that has so irked us elsewhere. And surely this is where much anti-immigration sentiment stems from: our lives are shit, who can we blame?

But just as indefensible is that the Remain vote have also sought to blame others for things not going OUR way. We pointed fingers at Leave voters and accused them of being racist, xenophobic, narrow-minded bigots with only a handful of D grade GCSEs amongst all 16 million of them. We shook our heads and shouted angry words at the television whenever Boris, Michael or Bilge-el showed their faces.  We wagged our pointy forefingers at the media for not making a better fist of educating the poor souls being sold a dud one. (It remains unclear to me whether the Leave campaign consciously embraced the immigration angle aware of it’s risible power, or did The Media fail to promote any Leave voices saying “Hang on, that’s not the only thing we’re about” because that didn’t make for such a sexy Britain-divided story? I suspect it is a potent mixture of both.)

So the media, the Leave campaign, and the “stupid, ignorant” Leave voters are to blame, right? Except I can’t help thinking we also need to look more closely at why it was so easy for private-school educated, upper-middle-class men (plus their comprehensive-school-educated pal, who just happens to have wrecked education and driven teacher moral into the ground) to convince the working class that they were an alternative to the establishment. Perhaps we were just not listening while they at least pretended to be all ears.

Stage four: acceptance and action

Hourly there is a new frustrating story of people who B-regret their vote to Leave. With every Daily Mail article about the fallout to be expected accompanied by concerned comments from Leave voters claiming that they wished they’d had these facts before they voted; and with every anecdote about someone’s sister’s neighbour who reached her decision to vote Leave by doing Ip, Dip, Dog-shit in the voting booth, it feels like the second referendum being called for would likely result in a Remain decision. But, nearly 1500 words into this aimless wander, now is not the time to discuss why this will, and should, never happen – at the least however, it’s worth considering that the demands for a second go at this game feel akin to a three-year-old who screams and stamps her feet until she gets what she wants.

This is what we have got and now we have got to deal with it.

Assuming that if you have read this far you are unhappy with the outcome of the referendum, there ARE actions that we can take. This opinion post with its weak arse attempt to make something light out of a heart as heavy as lead is not the place to expand on that further, nor do I purport to be any kind of expert, but I urge you to go and read. Research what the clever people say, but also, remember.

Remember that while genuine racists and bigots do reside upon our proud but tiny island, many voters were dealt a whole card deck of lies. They have been convinced that in voting Leave they held the winning hand that would gift them a road back to a fictional time when everything was cricket and roses before the brown people came and ruined it all. The tragedy is that these voters are the exact same people who will be worst served by the political climate that lies ahead. Somehow they were convinced that swapping Dave and George for Boris, Mickey and Nige constituted a rebellion, a coup against the establishment who had so ruthlessly stripped their towns and cities of any meaningful opportunity. In fact, as one Tweeter Twittered with devastating accuracy, replacing Cameron and Osborne with Johnson, Farage and Gove is like wiping the shit from your arse and spreading it on your face.

Remember that there are people who have made an informed decision to vote Leave for reasons other than we don’t want any more brown people, or people with names too long for our three-syllable-limited British tongues to wrap themselves around. These are the people we now need to listen to and work with. We need to push aside the doom and loathing.

We must remember that David Cameron agreed to a referendum to save his flagging leadership of the Tory party, during a General Election campaign which was threatening to unravel. I consider myself a relatively intelligent, educated, informed person but I found negotiating the complexities of the Leave and Remain arguments difficult – this is a decision that should never have been given to us. Perhaps Cameron never expected to win that election with an outright majority? Perhaps he was relying on the moderating presence of a coalition partner to hide behind when the people at the far right of his party, with whom he had hopped into bed, came knocking at his door demanding their car keys back? Perhaps he arrogantly assumed that the Remain vote would be triumphant? All or none of these hypotheses may be true but regardless we must remember that we have certainly ALL been but pawns in this game played by powerful men.

Finally we must remember that whatever the gloating sentiments of a man who befittingly bears resemblance to an Actual Muppet, we are ALL the decent and ordinary people. As such we now have a responsibility to listen to our neighbour, put down our pitchforks, acknowledge that no matter how much you did or did not want this outcome we are now in this unholy mess together. We need to hear one another’s concerns, stop gloating or drum-banging, reflect on how we too contributed to this nightmare, and how we too can be part of the solution.

We can only hope that our politicians are capable of doing the same.

(if you want to call Boris, Dave, George, Micheal, or Nigel (especially him) a few rude names however, that’s all good too)

 

 

I heard the news today

When Princess Diana died in August 1997 I was sixteen. I heard the news from my mum through a crack in the door late one Saturday morning as I sprawled, probably hungover, under my duvet. What followed was an unprecedented outpouring of national grief complete with unedifying scenes of people crying in the street – people who had clearly never met and did not really know her.

My distinctly British response was that this expression of emotion seemed excessive, mawkish, maudlin and, confident in my sixteen years of expertise in life on this Earth, I airily dismissed it as a particularly unpleasant form of sentimental hysteria far removed from the devastation of true grief.

Over the years, my discomfort with the mourning of public figures has endured and in my social media musings on the slew of celebrity deaths in 2016 this is apparent in the way that I have marked my respects.

Self-consciously I comment on the nature of the “petty sadness” that we feel when a person who has appeared in our lives and memories, and yet who we have never met, dies. We feel sad, but we should always remember that the measure of our grief fades into insignificance when positioned next to the torment of the family and friends. I felt it was important to keep perspective and not confuse the desire for a connection with it’s reality, because regardless of how much Prince’s music had meant to us, no matter how many of our childhood memories Victoria Wood appeared in, or how many of Alan Rickman’s films we had loved, we did not actually know any of them.

And then, on an ordinary Thursday, Jo Cox, MP, humanitarian, campaigner, wife, mother was murdered. The acute sadness that I, and many of my friends, have felt at her death has surprised us, and I’ve asked myself over and again, “Who do I think I am?” to stand and cry in the shower over a woman who’s name I had never heard until I received a text message asking me if I’d seen the news. Why do I feel like the next day is too soon to continue on like this hasn’t happened, too soon to not mention her in my interactions with people in my real and virtual lives? It feels self-indulgent, deluded even, to linger on these feelings and give them air – after all how inconsequential our sadness is compared to the total devastation that has just been levelled at an entire family. But still I cried and still those thoughts remained, “Who do I think I am? Why should I feel this way?”

But then I realised that actually the “Why?”isn’t at all important. In fact, the most important thing is that in these feelings of grief is humanity. These are not the tears of a teenager imagining a connection that does not exist, these are the tears that can imagine the cruelty that can without warning rip the most precious presence from a child’s grasp. As a woman who so passionately believed that “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us” it is clear that Jo Cox recognised our shared humanity regardless of faith, colour or creed, and valued every human life.

So, contrary to the feelings of my sixteen year old self, perhaps this sorrow should not be suppressed or dismissed because surely it simply shows that we care.  When we care we find connections where previously there were none, and we do exactly that which Jo Cox wanted us to and move past the differences and look for the similarities. A mother’s absence in a child’s life is felt just as profoundly regardless of faith, nationality, language or culture and to feel this isn’t mawkish, or maudlin, or sentimental. It’s Jo Cox’s abiding legacy – it’s human.

The Age of Innocence

For a considerable number of months, the biggest concern when using the toilet in front of The Eldest has been how to stop her sticking her hand down the back of my bum to “touch the poo”, and how to prevent her from trying to catch daddy’s wee. At three and half however, The Eldest has reached the point when she is really starting to notice the difference between men and women, boys and girls…

If you want to read more, then head over to www.mummyandnina.com who asked me to write a piece about my thoughts on when privacy becomes a “thing”… in short, when The Eldest actually cares that she is pooing in front of an entire car park…

Strange but true…

So, strange but true, I did an interview! The rhyme is not intentional but the hint that I feel a little weird about this, totally is.

I met Nicky Raby at the launch of The Art of Motherhood book launch – a fab compilation of illustrations around the theme of Motherhood put together by the inimitable Carrie-Ann Roberts who is the ballsy and brilliant brains behind Mre.Souer. I immediately warmed to Nicky as she was super-easy to chat to so, when she asked to interview me for her blog, I jumped at the chance.

If you’re interested in finding out a little more about me and how I’m spending time poncing around in an effort to change direction then have a read of the interview🙂