Dear Anna


Dear Anna,

How are you? I hope this finds you well and you’ve not been caught too unawares by the social media storm your article in today’s Daily Mail has caused. I somehow suspect you haven’t.

I took a moment to google you after reading your piece and spent some times reading some blog posts on your website, and skimming your Twitter feed. All in the name of research, you see (and for the avoidance of doubt that is spelled R E S E A R C H and is defined as the systematic investigation into a study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions, NOT take a couple of sentences completely out of context and use them to support lies and misinformation to further your own agenda).

It appears you enjoy Strictly Come Dancing, dislike Katy Hopkins and think Jeremy Hunt is a bellend – so far so good. But then you had to go and spoil it all.

To be honest I’m struggling to decide what motivated you to write the article – I suppose only you will really ever know but these are my best guesses:

  1. You really believe what you say and want to extend a comforting arm of support to those who are miserable because they absolutely love motherhood. They can’t figure out how to press unfollow on the social media feeds and blogs of the women you feature so you’ve written your piece as an act of solidarity.
  2. You made different choices to the women you featured, and feel threatened that they are doing things differently.
  3. You are jealous because they are more successful writers than you.
  4. The Daily Mail contacted you and paid you an incomprehensible sum of money to write the article and compromise your own believes – SO much money that you’d have been a mug to turn it down.
  5. You really need the £50 – £150 The Daily Mail usually pay for articles like this one.
  6. This is a cynical publicity stunt to market your book – by throwing these women under the wheels of the bus (go round and round) you can (this little) piggy-back (goes to market) on the outrage of their combined hundreds of thousands of social media followers and perhaps pick up a few sales.

As I’ve already said, only you will ever know the truth about why, but one thing I can say for certain is YOU’RE WRONG.

You’re wrong to call them “bordering on neglectful” and accuse them of “dimwit narcissism” . You’re wrong to call them deceitful, arrogant, and suggest that none of them have ever experienced or expressed “a sense of wonder about their baby”. You’re wrong simply when you say their target audience is “mostly new mothers”.

Either you really haven’t done your research, or you don’t care that these accusations are untrue. Neither of these scenarios suggest to me you have the right to any moral high ground.

But beyond the startling hypocrisy of telling women to “pause in their feverish mockery of motherhood” while you single out some brilliant mothers for verbal abuse that borders on slander, there is a more insidious narrative behind your words.

The narrative you suggest where “having a new baby is a gift” that some women never get to have, that is “precious” and “should be cherished” isn’t untrue but to suggest it should be the only narrative is dangerous.

It is irresponsible to suggest that a woman, who is not enjoying the early days, is suffering the psychological and physical impact of a traumatic birth; perhaps her relationship is under strain and she lives many miles away from her family; or maybe her baby has reflux and rarely sleeps longer than an hour at a time and is always crying when he/ she is awake, should put up and shut up, and be grateful for what she has.

Just a few days ago the tiny corner of the world wide web that I inhabit was awash with messages of solidarity and support about Maternal Mental Health. As a woman who suffered enormously with post-natal anxiety, flashbacks, dark thoughts and a general desire to escape my life following the birth of my daughter, your venomous dismissal of women who have done so much to open the closed doors behind which many a mother has sat and cried, is offensive.

And in response to your token defence of mothers who didn’t struggle like I did, the mothers you describe as feeling patronised by the alleged suggestion “that a home cooked meal, laundered baby clothes and clean nappies are beyond the wit of most mums”, consider this – they are not the ones trawling the internet at 3am desperately seeking reassurance that they are normal for wanting to scream FUUUUUCK OOOOOFF everytime their 2 week old baby’s gums clamp solidly round their bleeding, blistered, thrush-infected nipples.

They are happy with their lot. They have everything they “ever dreamed of”, as did you. So why the determination to pit those women against these?

Rule 1 of the sisterhood, Anna, is that you can’t defend one group of women by attacking another – it just doesn’t work like that.

So put your faux-concern aside, let’s lever those judgey pants right out of your crack and kick them off from around your ankles, I’m sure they must be keeping you up at night (and we all know how sleepless nights can make one a little nutty). Just give yourself and other women a break and even you Anna, are welcome to sit with us.

But should just one mother read your article and feel guilty and alone with any negative thoughts and feelings she is having then I sincerely hope your sleep is disrupted and your fanny feels on fire for eternity.

But that’s ok because you’re #grateful, right?

Yours faithfully flipping the middle fish finger,

Nicola Washington.

PS.

 

Why parents are the real losers on V-Day

I’m writing this imagining that we’ll be marking V-Day by sitting on the settee, not touching, while I dick around on my phone and he pretends he’s not asleep.

We might splash out on a takeaway, although if I get motivated the M&S Meal Deal seems the correct amount of lack-of-effort-but-let’s-pretend-we’ve-tried.

To be honest, we probably wouldn’t be celebrating “properly” even if we didn’t have two children running us ragged because (while I’m aware that this is a bit wanky) we 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 and Mother’s Day.

If you’re busy planning your celebrations however, and are now annoyed at me for belittling your heartfelt romantic gestures, please don’t be – it’s perfectly possible that I’m twisted because no one ever bought me chocolates, a card, breakfast in bed or flowers on the 14th Feb. (At this point the Mr is going to pipe up with “I have!” in an incredulous tone because last year he bought me some Maltesers).

Given my lack of experience in this field of roses, I’m also 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 every year there seems to be a concerted effort by “the media” to make people who are single on Valentine’s Day “feel better” about it.

Last year a video called Why being single is the best gift you can give yourself did the rounds and, intrigued, I watched.

The assumption of the video, and the numerous articles I read while in freefall down this particular internet rabbit hole, seemed to be that being single is shit and anyone who is single on this particular day feels even more shit than usual, therefore they need advice to make them feel less shit.

Now, I appreciate that I’m not the target audience for these intensely patronising pieces so you’re welcome to shout “what do you know?” at your computer screen, but some of the “advice” was errrr, a bit shit?

One of the articles I read encouraged single people to go out and buy themselves a Valentine’s Day present. Call me a coupled-up clueless fool, but the last time I checked, going and spending your own money on something for yourself, was called “shopping”. No?

Anyway, that’s not really my point. What I’ve actually popped up all half-empty to say is that contrary to popular opinion, single people are not to be pitied on Valetine’s Day, parents of small children are the ones who suffer most.

And no one is making us feel better.

There is a chance that having met a person with whom we have procreated, the people who write these borderline-offensive How to cope on Valentine’s Day features think we have got it sorted. But 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? Ha.

Special expensive chocolates? Will only be eaten standing up behind a cupboard door lest they be sniffed out, demanded, chewed up and spat out once reality dawns that Belgian Truffles don’t taste like chocolate buttons. You’ll probably be expected to willingly accept the slimy mess, complete with strings of attached saliva into your outstretched palm, and will then have to find somewhere to wipe it without smearing it over handles or drawers. Or you could just eat it.

Flowers are fine as long as you don’t have a small child who likes to eat them.

Candlelight? Four words – Disney Princess polyester dresses.

Basically, all the “romantic” stuff doesn’t just make the single people sad, it’s also a thorny rose in the heart of the average parent.

And all of this, of course, assumes that you’re 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 pleasurable backlash against the sappy soppy sloppy flowers and card brigade of which I am definitely not one although perhaps maybe possibly one day someone will buy me a card and some flowers and give me a kiss and some breakfast in bed and take the children away for a few weeks…sorry… 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?

Whatever way you look at it though, V-Day for parents is not even close to victorious. Especially when you realise that this year it lands on a Tuesday during HALF. TERM.

Roses are dead

Romance is too

When you have small children

Surviving is sometimes all you can do.

Why there’s no Elf on the Shelf in my house and other Christmas musings

Child of the eighties, born in December, and the middle one of three siblings, the twelfth month of every year was defined by increasing levels of anticipation. The longest 25 days of the diary were punctuated by moments of ecstasy every 72 hours when it was my turn to open the advent calendar.

We’d have a new one each year but with three of us sharing the words “my turn” were wet-myself-wondrous. Hopping-on-the-spot levels of anticipation were reminiscent of the need-a-wee-shapes I would break at every summer service station stop.

I’d hold my breath and listen for that tiny satisfying crack that told me this one hadn’t been tampered with by sneaky sibling digits, and with barely contained excitement I’d ease that door open to reveal…

…a picture.

No toy to add to a ready-made scene, no present exquisitely wrapped, not even a chocolate to chew in determined enjoyment despite it tasting upsettingly similar to the cardboard it came in.

Nope, just a picture.

And I bloody loved it.

I’d fend off envy that it was my siblings’ turn by fetching down the previous years’ calendars from the loft. I’d play with them endlessly, pretending it was the first time I’d ever opened those doors, even though their edges would never again meet quite as closely as they once had. Occasionally I’d take a cheeky peek at number 24 way before its time.

We would buy our family Christmas tree on whichever weekend fell closest to my birthday, a tradition which meant we were often more than half-way through December before twinkling lights and tinsel made an appearance in our home.

It’s a tradition that my parents still uphold, although these days I wonder whether it was borne from reducing the necessary daily hoovering in the days before non-drop trees. Every slammed door would be followed by the whispers of branches unsheathing themselves needle by needle, and in a house full of teenagers it’s a wonder it wasn’t bald by the time Christmas Day rolled around.

It is these kinds of memories I have returned to several times over the last few weeks. I’ve been jokingly justifying my decisions not to participate in Elf on the Shelf, not to buy and wrap up 24 tiny presents or books for each child, or to think up 24 festive-fun activities to open each morning.

I’ve called myself “lazy” while not actually thinking I am, and wondered where people get the money, but underneath it all I’ve also spent too much time thinking that perhaps my children are being served the festive equivalent of chicken on Christmas Day – it kind of looks the same but is just a bit everyday.

Whenever I’ve told my daughter that No, the Christmas Elf has not filled the advent calendar up yet because she’s waiting for you to get dressed, I’ve wondered if I’m just being heartless and cruel.

When a crafting-induced fit of rebellion saw me throw the remnants of our creativity out of the back door, I spied an opportunity and used the sprinkling of sparkly stuff and lonely purple pompom as evidence of the Christmas Elf’s visit. My heart broke a little as I watched the girl wander in her socks into the garden shouting for Rudolph, worried that he might be stranded, and I marveled in mildly-appreciative horror at my own manipulative cynicism.

Despite my more machiavellian tendencies however, this year in particular I have felt the pressure of making Christmas “come alive” for my little girl. She’s four now, is really feeling the festive flavour, and her pleasure when The Big Man in red paid a visit to the nursery Christmas party made me kick myself hard for scorning the annual stampede to book tickets to the best grotto in town. It sells out by the end of August.

We call her our “magic”. Originating in the mists of time impenetrably fogged by too many sleepless nights, it’s a pet name which has come to represent the wonder with which we look at her as she spells her own name and other ubiquitous rites of passage that nonetheless stop us in our tracks.

But what if I’m depriving my magic, of her’s?

And so here we are again, caught up in the same old guilt-ridden cycle. Its spidery-tentacles stretch out around us like a creepy hangover from the horribly comercialised Halloween. They’re so transparent they are easily overlooked, until we find ourselves observing what other people are doing, how other people are celebrating, and wonder if we are getting it wrong.

I wonder if I should have done Elf on the Shelf. I’m full of admiration for some of the brilliance I have witnessed on social media (that wily mistress with her kleptomaniac tendencies for joy) but I guiltily feel like I’m under enough pressure as it is.

“Just” this one more thing to do might be the elf that broke the reindeer’s back, and the price-tag of the “real thing” makes me wince at the thought that this is just another idea dreamed up by commercial interests who’re exploiting the lucrative fertile ground of middle class parent’s concerns about being and doing “enough”.

But then I think enough.

Because Christmas will be magical because Christmas is magical.

I clearly remember driving back from my aunt’s house late one Christmas Eve and being convinced I’d seen Father Christmas’s sleigh through the car window. I didn’t want him to know I’d seen him as I knew this meant a lump of coal and an unwelcome satsuma in my stocking the next morning so I shut my eyes tight.

A few hours later, around a parent-punishing 4.30am, I breathed a sigh of relief when my sack of stash was waiting at the end of my bed…

It turns out that I didn’t need to be bought anything, I didn’t even need to be told anything, the magic of Christmas and a child’s imagination was all I needed to give me beautiful memories to look back on.

I didn’t need the personalised stocking – not once did I question why my presents arrived in an old pillow case that I knew for the rest of the year lived in a drawer under my bed.

I didn’t need a box full of presents on Christmas Eve – I’m pretty sure I never thought, “Christmas is brilliant but I really wish all my presents didn’t come on the same day”.

I didn’t need an advent calendar full of gifts as well as those under the tree, and I look back relieved my parents didn’t feel they had to bankrupt themselves to create the acceptable measure of magic.

As always, if you are doing these things because you want to then deck your halls, jingle those bells and eat all the figgy pudding you can manage. But none of the songs sound quite as good if you’re only singing them because you feel you should.

The truth is, I’m sure you’ll agree, is that the lights, music, trees, smells, carols, stories, The Story, food, family, smiles, and the never-ending chocolate, together create a time of year that is already like no other.

There is no need to fill it to overflowing, because just as we will all no doubt say at the end of Christmas Day’s dining, sometimes you need to know when just one more mouthful will make you feel sick, because actually you already have enough.

Behind the smile: the internal rantings of a new mum’s mind

These days I become wildly protective of new mums whenever I meet one. Panting like an over-enthusiastic fat labrador in my efforts it can get a bit embarrassing if the new mum looks at me nonplussed and says she is absolutely loving every minute…Better safe than sorry though, eh…

I do feel bad when this happens though. I feel like the angry person scowling in the corner of the tastefully decorated monochrome gender-neutral nursery, spoiling the ambiance with my CLASHING SWIRLS OF RAGING COLOUR grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, whereas occasionally most of the time, being a mum is easily the best thing ever for me too.

My assumption of the worst for new mums in fact comes only from a good place. I’m several years past those precious early days (treasure every minute, they’ll be gone before you know it bleurgh… sorry just vommed a little – gone soon, you say? Er, yes please) but the memories of the unsettling storm of rampaging hormones, sleep deprivation, uncertainty, anxiety and the pressure of keeping a whole other human alive rocked, rolled and turned my world upside down.

Not least to turn me inside out was the fact that my previously reptilian skin, thickened by years of catering to that toughest of crowds – The Teenager – was not immune to the pummice stone that is motherhood. Like the best exfoliator the friction of parenthood sloughed away cell by cell, layer after layer, my bullshit identity – the person I thought was me – until there was nothing left except a tissue veneer loosely keeping my organs from jelly-like splashing all over the floor.

I might have become a bit “sensitive”.

On one occasion, I cried because a family member wondered whether pregnancy yoga relaxed my first baby so much that she didn’t want to be born. In the fragile emotional state I was in, knowing that this was absolutely bloody bonkers was not enough to have me rolling my eyes and moving on. She continued to wonder whether this was why my labour was so (fucking horrendous – my word, definitely not her’s) challenging and my bullshit-deflectors failed me completely.

I just heard yet another shitty judgement on me, my body and my ability to be a mother. And I cried. And I cried. And I cried.

Part of the problem is that much of the shit that gets fanned in a new mum’s direction often originates in helpful intentions. It’s really hard to say “Oh just fuck off would you” when you know this would be seen as an “over-reaction”, not to mention the fact that lots of the most hurtful things are said by family members (no escape), or (even harder to negotiate) your partner’s family members, or even your friends.

These will probably be the people you have to draft in at some point or other to babysit. Piss them off at your peril.

Instead, tell yourself that they don’t realise their offer of unsolicited advice is not going to evoke feelings of gratitude. That your response might in fact be, “Oh well, if s/he thinks I need to be told this then I must look like I can’t cope”, won’t have occurred to them.

Tell yourself this so you don’t drive yourself crazy, or sad, or both.

The fact is that some people left their sensitivity bone behind back when two cells were becoming four, so protect yourself. Tell the boneless ones “Thanks” or “because I want to”, and entertain yourself by reading some of these internal rants that otherwise will never see the light of day because I need babysitters…

You should/ you must/ you will… Oh just fuck off would you? There is no should, must, will about it. This is my baby and I am going to do it my way. I don’t give two flying fingers of fudge that you have three children of your own, have cared for the entire under-5 population of a small Pacific island, nor that you have a PHD in offering unsolicited advice to anyone unfortunate enough to have ears and a baby, this is STILL not your baby and I’m STILL going to do it my way.

And besides, I have spent the last four night’s at ninety minute intervals reading ev-er-y-thing in the internet so I already know there are approximately seven THOUSAND conflicting pieces of advice out there about how to get my DC/ DS/ DD2 (wtf?) to sleep through the night. AND I’ve already tried eight thousand of them.

What works for one baby, might not work for ten others so please go and file your “expertise” under sh for “shut up”.

You’ve got to be strong now… Ok then, look at me. Look me right in the face – it might be a little drippy right now, but this <circle your head with a very pointy forefinger> has also just grown a person and pushed it out of her body/had it hoisted from the escape hatch.

Do you see me?

I AM the dictionary definition of strength – I am a chuffing HERO.

And if you don’t believe me, take a look at my strung-together under-carriage. Like an abandoned Halloween mask left draped over the pumpkin flame five minutes too long, that thing is terrifying right now, and who KNOWS if it will ever mould back into shape.

Still need convincing? Well how about I flash you my cracked and bleeding nipples – it’s not just milk dribbling out of those butt-ends right now, you know… Was that a WINCE? These are WORDS motherchuffer, just imagine how it FEELS.

I am a WARRIOR – who may be feeling a little unstable because, hormones – BUT Bow. DOWN.

Reassess your judgement of me as WEAK because I am crying a little – I am a GODLY-GOD-DAMN-GODDESS.

The baby is ok – that’s the main thing… Oh is it? So me, mum, the person who changed her life, wardrobe, eating and drinking habits, who has not slept properly for months (sleep in the late stages of pregnancy is a cruel, cruel joke – like preparing for a freaking famine by going on a diet) and who has just had her body torn apart in countless ways so that “the main event” can journey earthside, is not the most important person?

Are you high?

I’m a freaking hero (there may be a theme developing here). And if I tell you that the birth was hard, just fucking listen, people. It was HARD. I have just been through the most traumatic hours of my entire life and you need to make space for me to talk about it.

I might talk about it a lot at first, I might bore the tits off you. But as my tits are being pulled and pummelled, are growing and shrinking, stinging, cracking, bleeding and oh, yes lactating; as MY tits are doing all of this a little bit of boredom for your’s is no big deal.

So no: the main thing is not that the baby is ok – the main thing is that I am ok. An ok mother is an ok baby.

He/ she is/not hungry/ tired… I DON’T CARE. Even if you KNOW-KNOW – you’ve had seven children of your own, bottle fed three, breast fed four and tandem fed two of those, if you’ve co-slept AND cot-slept, sleep-trained AND gone insane, this baby is NOT YOUR’S so BACK OFF.

Let’s face it, there is a VERY small list of things that can go wrong – hungry, tired, wet, poo-y, hungry, hungry, wind, hungry – so even if you’re right, it doesn’t matter because we’ll get there eventually, without being made to feel like a twat for not knowing immediately like you do, apparently.

*Also see You should/ you must/ you will…*

You’re making a rod for your own back… Maybe. But it’s my back, right? I’m not going to actively “teach” my child to sleep nowhere except at a precise angle of 45degrees on top of me, but only when I’m wearing the green pyjamas and have the top two buttons undone so his little shell-like can rest on my pumping life-force, just so I can leave him/ her with you to scream for a few days while I go and party in Ibiza, am I?

So why are you so bothered?

Besides, maybe I don’t care. Maybe right now stuffing enough rods to build Trump’s fence down the back of my breastfeedingfriendly shirt is worth it, if that is all that stands between getting some sleep and getting none.

Maybe picking him/ her up whenever he/she cries makes ME feel calmer.

Maybe carrying him/ her in a sling all day instead of in the pushchair means that no one has to listen to the screams.

Maybe this is all just MY way and is none of YOUR business.

And maybe, just maybe, you do have something valid to add to the conversation.

But maybe just maybe, I’m not ready to hear it.

And maybe, just maybe, you need to respect that, button it, and say “You’re amazing. Well done.”

Say nice things to new mums

It’s a while since I was a new mum, but some of what was said to me back then still lingers, less with the tears attached, but more with the dregs of, Why the fuck would you say that?

There’s a reason why I’ve not said “new parents”, by the way. It’s not because I think dads are unimportant (the contrary in fact – I wish society judged them to be just as important as mums in the lives of their children), but because when a new baby lands Earth-side, I think the role the woman has played in that spectacularly special event should be given the respect it deserves.

In our culture however, it’s all about the baby. Which seems odd when you consider that a bit like Kim Kardashian, he/she has simply turned up: all the hard work behind the scenes has been done by someone else.

Perhaps then, we should spend more time and effort celebrating and congratulating a woman that she has grown a whole person.

She has changed the way she looks, walks, wees, works, eats, drinks and spends her free time (assuming she’s first time mum otherwise, nope) for this mini-dictator but in our haste to celebrate the driver of the vehicle, we forget to marvel at the engineer.

Instead, I would go so far as to say rather than asking the parents how the baby is sleeping/ eating/ feeling, these are the things we should be asking the parents. And they are definitely the ones who need the biggest cuddle.

And all the while that I say this, I’m aware there are people somewhere (I’ve never been), somehow (I’ve never experienced), someplace (I’ve still never been there), something something (who knows, really?), who swear they embrace every second of motherhood as a blessing.

I admit that I want to stab these women in the eye never completely believe people who say this, and so would say that unless someone corrects you, work on the assumption that they too are finding it HHAAAAAARRRRDDDDDDD.

Essentially, just be kind and say…

  1. You’re a (fucking – for some reason, this always makes me want to swear) hero. Whether the baby surged out with the assistance of nothing but some grunting and a Golden Thread breath; whether that brand new human was air-lifted out of the sunroof; or whether the mum had a giant set of spoons shoved up her foof, wrapped around the baby’s head and heaved on like a stubborn cork in a bottle… whatever the story, that woman is a (fucking) hero.

Even more importantly, she needs to be told that. I might even argue that she needs to be told that MORE if she has had a difficult experience, such are the dreadful mind tricks that a new mum can play on herself.

 2. How are you feeling? Asking this and receiving an accurate answer is highly dependent on your relationship with the mother. But even if you’re not that close, you might find that talking openly (but always briefly) about your experiences might encourage someone else to share something they otherwise would have not.

Sharing can lift the burden, not necessarily of the feelings themselves, but certainly of feeling alone with them. It’s easy to feel like you are the only terrible mother/ human being who ever wanted to keep walking past the bins, to the end of the street, onto a bus, to the airport to fly away and never come back.

“She just took out the recycling,” you imagine your confused other half lamenting, and then you dutifully turn around and trudge back into the house.

Sharing means a new mum can realise that these feelings are normal – the adjustment is huge, and it’s ok to struggle with it. And while I don’t wish to insult anyone who genuinely enjoys the weeping (eyes, boobs, wounds) and wiping (hands, bums, noses, floors, your clothes, the baby’s face) of early motherhood, it is my experience that as soon as I venture “It’s a bit shit, isn’t it?”, the floodgates open.

Because it’s NOT easy – for most people – and we need to talk about this, normalise it, so that no one feels shitty for finding it so.

3. I’m going to wash my hands and then I’ll hold the baby – you drink some tea/ use a knife AND a fork/ wave-your-arms-around-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care-just-because-you-can. But read the situation – if the mum keeps staring with intent at the baby, ask her if she wants him/ her back. Some mums feel a fierce protective instinct over their new baby, and seeing someone else hold him/her can provoke anxiety, so if you’re not sure, then check.

4. I’ll change his/her nappy. Say this, sit back and watch as, like a slightly suspicious Labrador hearing the crunch of a crisp, the new-parent’s head lifts at the sound of your words.

Alert, eager, hopeful but slightly confused, they will double and triple check your intentions lest their hopes be dashed, “Really?…Are you sure?… You don’t have to… really you don’t have to…”

A friend insisted she do this at my birthday meal just weeks after my daughter was born, and to this day I remember the peculiar and welcome sense of relief and freedom I felt for a few short minutes.

I stared at the Mr in bemusement as it dawned on me that I hadn’t looked him in the face for weeks, and I resolved there and then to offer to do the same whenever the chance arose.

5. I’ve brought you some food. Especially if you are visiting over a meal time. Under no circumstances turn up and expect to be catered for – at least take pizza. The new mum might be totally on top of her shit and be showered, dressed, with a freezer full of batch cooking and a lasagne bubbling away in the oven, but don’t be the person who expects to be fed.

She might also be the mum who is surviving on bourbons dunked in thrice-microwaved tea – the last thing she needs is someone else to look after, who simultaneously makes her feel shit about her inability to adult.

6. I’ll make the teas. Not knowing where the teabags are is no excuse. Unless you have reason to suspect their kitchen might double up as a set for a remake of Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom, you should be safe opening some cupboards and firkling around to find all the accoutrements you need.

This manoeuvre is especially welcome should you visit in the first couple of weeks after childbirth when the mum may well have just tried 3487 different sitting positions before she is passably comfortable.

And then has to get up to make everyone a drink.

Let her sit. Make the tea…

Clearly this isn’t an exhaustive list of the nice things you can say to a new mum, but some of them are things that made a difference to me in The Early Days. Some of them meanwhile, are things that I wish someone had said to me.

But why, you might be wondering, is it even necessary? Haven’t babies have been born since the dawn of time – what’s the big deal? Well, in some respects this is true but what our society fails to acknowledge, in contrast to the reverence offered by other cultures around the world, is that this is still not a simple thing.

New life should certainly not be taken for granted, but the mothers who grew and delivered it should also be treated with as much love, gentleness and consideration as you can find.

Basically, mothers are awesome. So don’t be a dick – be the person who makes sure they know it.

Why there is no winner when Home plays Away

I’ve been moaning a bit recently. Mostly about how bored and frustrated I feel being at home more-or-less full time with two small children.

It is true that my job was far from being my dream and, to be completely honest, there were elements of it that made me fantasise I was a unicorn and could stab people in face by nodding I disliked.

But when all is said, done and dusted, I do miss it; not just, but also not least, because there were things that I loved about going to work.

I loved earning my own money.

I have found being “kept” like a pet cat distinctly disempowering. And while cold hard cash struggles to survive the onslaught of childcare costs, a little will hopefully be yours. You earned it. And you earned the right to decide how it should be spent.

Staying at home full time means I feel like a passenger in the financial affairs of my household. My inner voice laments, This is not how it was supposed to be, and stumps up a pathetic defence against the uncharitable thoughts I had in the past about women who did not work (karma btw, is a snippy bitch, sitting on a bench with teething, sleep deprivation and no friends).

My thoughts come back to sneeringly haunt me and even though I fight the good fight not to use the word “just” in front of “a mum”, like the babies I grew who used my bladder as a bed, that feeling is a heavy weight on every penny I spend.

I loved leaving the house alone.

Leaving the house with one bag, one coat; opening, walking through, then shutting the door behind me, without breaking into a sweat or a swear-word, is an under-appreciated pleasure.

So, on the mornings that you get to shower, dress, drink coffee, eat breakfast and leave the house alone please take a second to breathe in the peace. I know you’ll be on the clock, I know you’ll probably be stressing about the day ahead, but please appreciate that the soundtrack to your morning is not Paw Patrol, no one is crying because you wouldn’t let them drink the mouthwash, no one repeatedly slammed the toilet lid as you attempted to complete a thought in the shower, and when you stepped out of its steamy warmth no one asked you why you were wobbling.

I loved sick days (or the ability to take them, at least).

Not that I took many. But I could take them. That is all there is to say on that.

I loved the opportunity to concentrate.

Sometimes I get through the day by thinking of my children as my employers. Choosing between park or soft-play is the stay-at-home-and-feel-my-brain-slowly-shrivel-and-die equivalent of choosing between answering emails or making phone calls – they’re not the things that dreams jobs are made of, but its all part of the job.

Also part of the job when you’re actually at work however, are times when you need to concentrate on one thing for an extended period of time. This is when international office code for Chuff Off comes into play: out come the earphones, in they go, and regardless of whether you actually have anything attached to the other end, you just crack on uninterrupted. Bliss.

Being at home with small people however, means being relentlessly subject to the whims, fancies and bodily fluids of someone else Every. Single. Second.

Even if you snatch a moment of peace behind the fridge door, the universe dictates you’ll be left forcing down a sticky, half-chewed chunk of Dairy Milk because those noisy little fuckers you live with have somehow set to mute, sniffed out your enjoyment, and snuck up behind you with the question, “Wha’ you got?” Your time is never your own.

Conversations not about my children; that buzz of getting something really, really right; being measured, assessed and found to be good at your job; the freedom of being able to call and say “I’m going to miss bedtime”, knowing that someone else is there to keep the small people alive; being me-me not mum-me; are all things that I miss about work.

But I also know the grass ain’t all that much greener on the other side of the fence.

It is tempting to romanticise any situation that is not your’s, especially if the over-riding mindset that accompanies your current position is one of, How did this happen? I don’t want this. But perhaps there are things to be grateful for on this side of the fence too – perhaps the grass isn’t green just yet, but maybe the soil is fertile and there is an opportunity to grow there too.

I love mornings.

Neither of my kids are at school so I know this won’t last forever, but for now I don’t have to drag children out of bed, rattle a toothbrush around their resistant teeth, wrestle them into some clothes, then fling them in the car for the hurtle to nursery. I don’t have to shove them through the doors still rubbing sleep out of their eyes, then drive like a lunatic to get to work five minutes late. No longer having to do this is excellent.

I love the laughter.

Parenting has brought with it an awful lot of tears. Some – stitches, exhaustion, PND – are justified, others – not being able to find the charger for the laptop, the John Lewis Christmas advert, DIY SOS – less so. But goofy happiness and laughter also feature large in the landscape of my parenting.

I laugh so much I sometimes cringe at what my shining-pride-face must look like to people immune to the charms of my children. My face hurts with the effort and while the smile is often turned upside down mere seconds later, it is not long before the full-beam is switched back on.

Whether it’s The Boy saying he is “Bahn memmeh’s baosh [bouncing Mummy’s balls]”, or The Girl informing me that she was going to the toilet to have a wee and a baby (a misunderstanding that arose after I told her that babies “get out” through a woman’s “noonoo”), the lols roll in several times a day and I would hate to miss out on any of it.

I love the flexibility.

Admittedly I’m not able to go to the gym or the hairdresser basically ever, and come to think of it I don’t really get to eat my meals or wee when I want to either, but I do get to go on nursery trips to the seaside. I can take my son to his hospital appointments, and I’m able to visit primary schools for my daughter over the next few weeks without feeling like a burden on anyone.

If I were still working, I know I’d be fighting the guilt that I was prioritising my children over my work, I’d be taking great pains to show how appreciative I was, and would repeatedly reassure anyone who would listen that I would be logging on later to make up the time… I don’t miss any of that.

The truth is that there are good things and bad things in play whichever team you are on. Mentally throwing golf-balls at your partner/ friend’s face because he/ she wears the Home kit, is pointless and self-defeating, because she/ he might be envying the “me-time” your commute to work represents to him/ her.

The reality of course is that attired entirely in Away, you spend way too much time trying to avoid sniffing a stranger’s sweat patches.

Meanwhile his/her days resemble being forced to eat cake all day, every day. She (ok I’m dropping the pretence of she/he, because we all know this mostly affects women…) loves cake it’s true, but if it’s the only thing she ever gets to eat, all day long, and she has to eat it whether she is hungry or not, and she knows she might be startled awake multiple times a night to eat more cake… well, I’m sure you can forgive her for looking a bit sick.

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What do you mean you don’t want to eat all of them? You said you liked cake. God, you’re so ungrateful.

The thing is that this should not be a competition. It is not about winning, losing, or who has it best, worst, hardest or easiest, it’s about recognising and respecting the various difficulties that our journeys represent.

Instead of glaring through green-tinted spectacles, we need to take the glasses off and really see the desperation in one another’s eyes. Then we simply need to give each other The Nod.

Because the over-riding truth in this hardest ‘hood of all is that, when we’re forced to choose between home and away, for many of us there is no winner.

Second time lucky

While I prepared dinner a few days ago, The Eldest created a train from the kitchen chairs and (miraculously) kept herself and her brother busy.

Let’s be clear though, this was not a calm and quiet affair. The room looked like a school hall after a rainy-day lunch break, the chair legs repeatedly scraped across the kitchen floor, The Boy was shouting “Dane, dane, dane” like an Brexiteer in pursuit of those pesky Scandi-types who keep showing us how it (life) should be done, and as the train turned into a tunnel, The Eldest shouted her encouragement to him to hurry because the monsters were coming.

How accurate a picture of world politics they unknowingly painted in that moment I mused… but also, isn’t he lucky.

Like many parents before and since it has crossed my mind that we might have done the little man a disservice by denying him of baby sign, music classes and elaborate birthday parties.

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This is The Eldest’s first birthday celebrations (look, even my postpartum hair joined the party). I can’t find the pictures of The Boy’s first birthday. I’m sure we have some. Somewhere…

His status as one-plus-one means that contrary to child one who had time, money and interest invested in her every breath, blink, and bodily-function, his cultural capital has been curtailed. I mean, who the chuff has the time to sing “Wind the bobbin up” when the savvier, and far better-stimulated older child is having all of the fun winding mummy up.

But as I watched him, tombstone teeth grinning in all their glory, clumsily copying every move his sister made, I had to re-evaluate.

The boy stopped playing every so often to spray the floor with birthday cake crumbs. And while uppermost in my mind was the fact that this meant wiping the floor for the 7239 time that day, I was also thinking about how long we had made his sister wait for cake. Her first taste was on her first birthday, and I think she waited another year for her second go at the good stuff – healthy types might disagree but I’m pretty sure he’s one up in those stakes.

Totally unaware of his relative wealth the boy continued with his preferred method of munching.  He hates carrying food and will shove as much as he can into his mouth at once so he can continue playing/ sticking his fingers in his belly-button (another of his “habits”). Like the efforts of a weary parent wrestling a pop-up sun-tent back into it’s impossibly small packet, he pushed this bit in, held that bit there, argh another bit has popped out, push that in, oh no, hold on, ah shit it’s all over the floor again.

Meanwhile, I reflected on the freedoms from domestic servitude I used to enjoy he has enjoyed to create AALLLLLL of the mess with a big, brilliant sister on hand to help.

They spend their days together, share a bedroom at night, and in general are as thick as thieves. Daily she aids him in his endeavours to rob me of my sanity by assisting him in accessing our household contraband. Glue, biros, scissors, knives, soap, tampons, makeup, and multi-packs of Petit Filous, are all items which have been misappropriated by the boy while my eyes have been elsewhere.

I used to think I was a shit-hot parent because my child had never drawn on anything except paper. I now know this is purely because I had only one child. One child, one pair of eyes – easy. Two children, two pairs of… wait… oh shit…

Whether helicopter-hover-er or overbearing-smother-er it is true to say that his big sister got more of my attention whereas (I tell myself) the boy has benefitted from being neglected left to his own devices a little more.

There have been times however that I have worried that he doesn’t get enough love, but how true can this be? He has a whole extra person covering him in kisses, telling him what to do, and giving him access to the permanent marker pens.

Second born children are not 50% down, they are 100% up in the attention stakes compared to the first born.

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The baby toys were too safe. His eyes were on the ones with tiny parts he could inhale.

Besides, as ably demonstrated by The Boy, if the second born does feel neglected then he/she can always take matters into their own hands by never sleeping. The Boy didn’t sleep through the night until he was nine months old, and to this day he ends up in our bed at some point most nights.

There are many long…long… night-time hours during which cuddles, kisses and whispered curses can be gratefully received by the second child starved of such attention during the sunshine hours, and our one-plus-one has certainly made his need to bank some bodily contact clear.

First time around we were disciplined in the sleep stakes, and even on the nights that The Eldest switched to rave setting, we would resolutely remain in her room. Looking back, I think we must have been high/ crazy and this time we have taken an altogether more sane/ permanently exhausted approach to sleep.

These days all four of us sleep wherever is necessary to get some sleep. I mean, I’m not certain whether anyone has ever actually died from tiredness but I’m not going to test the theory – staying alive it would seem is a significant factor in successful adequate parenting.

I’m also certain that the boy is entirely happy. While he snuggles down between me and his dad, whacking us in the face with his feet/ hands/ teeth whenever we fail to hold his hand or otherwise assure him of our presence, there is no way that he is thinking “I wish they were as strict with me as they were with my sister.”

So I suppose what I am trying to saying is, if you’re feeling like you’ve dropped the one-plus-one’s balls on the development or boundaries front, then just don’t.

I can’t promise they won’t end up with trust issues because “In a minute” from mummy’s mouth, could mean anything from I will play with you in 60 actual seconds to, Are you chuffing insane? I’ve had fourteen minutes of sleep for every day you have been alive. I am going to die of tiredness. Please leave me alone FOREVER. But, I can (kind of) promise that by being a sibling, they have gained much, much more than they have lost.

On the many days when it feels less like raising the future, and more like raising the dead, be kind to yourself – survival has to be number one on the list of things to do when you are a parent.

And besides, it seems to me that second time really is lucky.

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NB: this is about second children because by a third (or more) parents have given up already know this shizz…

Dress like a mum? Wear leggings.

I bent over in the park the other day while wearing dungarees. The straps had been sliding off my shoulders so I had shortened them earlier in the day. I imagine the experience when I bent to rescue Blaze is akin to how cheddar feels when faced with the cheese wire…

The truth is, I like fashion. But in my life fashion and offspring go together like pineapple on pizza – I don’t think it works, but I know others disagree.

I like wearing nice clothes, feeling good and not looking like a woman who showered in super-glue then tripped over in a charity shop. But aside from the issues with finding time to shop,  I also find it difficult to find anything that survives the rigours that parenthood present me with better than <drum roll please> leggings…

I know, I know, they are a sartorial co-conspiritor with Crocs in their screams of “I have given up, dress me in Cath Kidston and consign me to the crochet corner” (put down the needles people, it’s just not my bag) but other forms of outfit offer up too-too many challenges.

First up, crack. Don’t like it. Whitney did and look what happened to her. OK, the kind of crack I’m talking about is unlikely to end your life, but just like the kind of crack that can, no one wants it shoved in their face at baby sign.

Unfortunately however, sitting on the floor singing nursery rhymes, or crawling up the slide at soft-play because the small person has been losing her shit for the last fifteen minutes about the “wind” (air conditioning), mean that the opportunities to share some crack would have Whitney and Bobbie beating down my door. For this reason, most pairs of jeans are simply not duty-appropriate.

And that includes Mum jeans.

I mean, they look friendly enough, they’re even named for us. Surely they are designed to withstand the demands of modern motherhood and are totally down with smears of bodily fluids and food.

But Mums beware. These jeans are not your friend.

Never, in fact, has an item of clothing been so misleadingingly named. I sometimes imagine that the childfree 20somethings who decided these things should be the epitome of cool are sitting somewhere in Shoreditch drinking a chai latte, and having a secret snigger at all the mums who have fallen for the hype. They smirk as we wincingly lunge to perform the kneeling-nappy-change while our jeans act as a sadistic yardstick of where our bodies used to be.

The harsh truth is that we need to be down with our own kids so if Mum jeans are cutting nothing except our poor beleaguered lady bits, then that’s no fun for anyone.

Worried about the cheese-wire-mum-tum-flat-bum effect of the Mum jeans therefore, you may reach for the other middle-class mum sartorial stalwart, dungarees. I am in fact a fan of their multi-pocketed, waistband-less offer, and they are very kind to those of us still breastfeeding, but even though their boob access is great there is another kind of access on which they’re not so slick – the toilet.

There is nothing more annoying than needing to remove layers of clothing before you can wee. It’s just about manageable if you’re accompanied only by your phone, or if you’re nicely ensconced at home, but add to the game two children battling to see who can escape from the public cubicle first, a non-existent weakened pelvic floor, followed by the soggy realisation that at some point during the strip and struggle your strap has fallen down the loo, and it becomes clear that dungarees are not our answer.

And so we seek. We cast our gaze wide (or at least as far as filling up the shopping bag at ASOS, but never pulling the trigger) for an item of clothing that will salvage a smidgeon of cool while avoiding crack, cheese-wire and wringing out the bog-water. And we land on the tube skirt.

We’ve done it, we declare! We’ve found the perfectly-practical-parenting-clothing-conundrum solution! Sod Gok, we mamas have got this.

Forgiving waistband? Check. Crack coverage? Check. Can be worn a multitude of ways… Can be thrown in the washing machine…Doesn’t need ironing? Check, check, CHECK!

I paired it with some opaques and Stan Smiths and that day I stepped out proud that this mum ain’t gonna be consigned to the sartorial scrapheap after all. I wandered down the road all blissful in that bubble until the small-small sniffed out my happiness and legged it for the South Circular. That’ll learn ‘er.

All my instincts screamed RUUUUNN before he reached the snarling, yarling traffic but all my legs could do is match his stumpy-legged-little-stride-length perfectly, as the tube skirt took on unwelcome multi-tasking properties as a resistance band around my knees. The only thing for it was to hitch that bad boy up and lunge to grab his hood, getting a grip of it just in time while losing my grasp on anything resembling my dignity.

So the tube skirt is done, and the search continues.

Or does it? Because lurking there in your wardrobe from a time when exercise was a thing you dreaded rather than dreamed about, are leggings. Can I, you wonder, just wear them?

Well, let’s look at the evidence…

Sleep-deprivation has been proven to greatly diminish one’s ability to make decisions and choosing an outfit means time spent in front of the wardrobe/ mirror deliberating, which is time that could have been spent sleeping. So, throw on some leggings with a tee and sweatshirt and you’ve achieved an act of self-care and charity for the average parent’s addled mind.

This outfit also comes with a get-out-of-fashion-free-card as even if you look like a sack of shizz, people will assume that either (a) you are on you way to do some exercise, therefore you deserve props for being “on it” OR (2) you have just finished exercising, therefore you deserve props for being “on it”. Win win.

No one looks at a lady in leggings and thinks she’s simply fed up of being diced up by her denim.

In fact the only significant downside to succumbing to the dulcet tones of lycra whispering on lycra, and a waistband that no amount of cake can defeat, is the fact that there are no pockets and this can be problematic.

So my final piece of advice should you choose the stretch rather than slice, elastic rather than crack-fantastic option, is to make sure you have pockets elsewhere. Otherwise you *might* find yourself rummaging around in your pants in the playground because that *might* be where you have stashed your phone.

Just saying.

 

 

Parenting sl-hacks

Recently I was doing a late-night social media shuffle when up popped “The 36 must-have items every new mum needs”.

Anything that uses the word “must” gets me all twitchy around my rebellion-reflex but it also got me thinking that while all the bouncer, nappy bin and buggy recommendations are great, they are ultimately a bit pointless during the day-to-day demands of being a new parent.

Some days are joyous, some days are shit, but every day underlines the small people’s ferocious appetite for time. They just suck that tucker right up.

So here are my “Top five have-if-you-want-to items every new mum might consider” for saving some time, some tidying up and some sanity.

Hack 1: baby wipes. This one is as old as the hills, but is so good that it merits revisiting. For the first four years few months of your child’s life, you may find it useful to mutter the mantra, “No one died because the hoovering didn’t get done” on repeat, and adopt the attitude that if the surface is smooth and non-permeable, a baby wipe is all you need.

As far as I am concerned, in the habitat of every hairless hobbit, the TV, furniture, wooden floors, door handles, doors, sink, bath and mirrors have at some point received the baby wipe treatment.

And never forget that when the longed-for night out-out finally rolls around, and you have approximately 7 minutes and 46 seconds to get ready, it is perfectly acceptable to baby wipe the day’s detritus off your jeans, shoes and hair using just a Huggie and hotfoot it out of the door.

Hack 2: changing station. Just don’t bother. With the station, that is. I’m pretty sure that even the worst parents are aware of the need to wipe the small person’s bum every once in a while. But just don’t be conned into thinking that a changing station that matches the wardrobe and cot, and has storage for the nappies, wipes, muslins, scented nappy bags, Sudacrem, Bepanthon, Metonium, distraction toy, and which also offers the perfect place for the nappy bin, and gin, is necessary. Especially if you have stairs.

Think it through – when the baby drops a bomb every seventeen seconds do you really want to be dragging your sleep-deprived, stitched-up, sore-all-over-self up a flight of stairs? All you really need is a box, a folding nappy mat and a small table to tuck the lot under. Repeat x the number of rooms the baby will be in (your bedroom, the living room, the bathroom are a good bet) and you are set for every nappy changing need.

Hack 3: plain cot sheets. Ok, let’s call a spade a spade, this one is sliding towards slovenly BUT don’t judge me, I’m trying to save you time. Time = sanity and possibly more sleep, so you know, slovenly ain’t always that bad.

The idea is that you don’t want any sheets with pattern which identifies the top from the bottom. Why change the sheets when they’re covered in spit-up, slobber and snot when all you’ve got to do is turn the mattress round?

Minging? Maybe. But if the only thing that is going to be sitting on the small-person’s dried up slime is the seven useless snuggly soothers your childless friends have bought you, then what’s the problem? I’m not suggesting you don’t wash the sheets, just use them for double the time. Win.

Hack 4: scissors. A decent-sized, really sharp pair. The kind of pair that you can use to gently stab your child’s father when he fails to wake up in the night ever  cut up pizza, spaghetti, sausages, lasagne, fish fingers and any kind of carb-heavy-meal that are the life blood of most new parents. Scissors win over knives all day long as they are quick and can be used one-handed while you are holding the baby who won’t be put down. Your food can then be eaten with a spoon, so you can carry on holding the baby who won’t be put down.

Hack 5: sleep suits. Generally speaking, the most sensible sartorial choice day and night for a very small baby is the sleepsuit. As the child gets older however, the lure of two-piece pyjamas, can prove too cute to resist, especially when it means avoiding wrestling with an errant toddler while attempting to match up multiple poppers. I realise that this sounds appealing, but I have two words for you: false economy.

A separate top and bottom provides unparalleled access to the nappy and the gleeful grab at the nappy sides is best avoided at bedtime. As is “exploration” which can result in a scene reminiscent of a dirty protest in a prison cell, or the odd willy appearing over the top to wee. To be avoided.

During the day, it’s worth applying the same strict “poppers-only”policy as small people do not have an accurate barometer of what constitutes anti-social behaviour. Suggest they might eat a broken biscuit and they will remind you of your duty to uphold high standards at all times and offer only the perfectly spherical snack. Just minutes later, however, they’ll be sampling the cigarette butts from the pub floor as though they the classiest canapés. It’s not worth the risk of a turd being tossed around, or rolling under the settee. Just grit those teeth and press those studs.

So that’s it – my 861 words worth on the matter of what a parent might choose to do to save some time – no must, no should, just might.  These are things that have genuinely occurred to me over the last almost-four-years of parenting, and while opinions may differ whether they are parenting hacks, or parenting slacks, as always I’m just being honest.

 

 

 

 

The modern competitive parent

So, by now you’ve all heard of the competitive parent – the one whose baby sleeps through the night at 6 minutes old; who’s baby’s teeth just “appear” without the need for a system of subterranean sewers to siphon away the slobber; the one whose baby eats liver and onions for their first meal, who is never ill, never cries, and who walks at 10 weeks. Their precious bundle talks in sentences containing at least one adverb and a subordinate clause at 11 weeks, expels farts that smell like a fairy’s breath while their shit is good enough to eat.

You will know the ones I mean, all of you will have met at least one. I certainly have.

Sometimes I feel like the over-sharer at the party, the one with wild hair and crazed eyes who everyone greets by looking at the floor and pretending to find hitherto unfathomable meaning in an unidentifiable smudge.

I have greeted parenting with almost embarrassing honesty and I’ve still not learned to take the perfect parenting experiences of others with the proverbial pinch (bucketful) of salt they deserve.

I greet people’s comments of “Oh no, I have never been so busy cleaning up darling Beatrice’s massively shitty arse that I didn’t notice I’d dragged my hair through it until hours later when I tracked the smell down. Oh dear, that must have been awful” with surprise and bewilderment that so many people seem to find it all so easy.

Well, things need to change.

First of all, note made to self when The Eldest was 3 weeks old – tie my hair back when changing a nappy. But more importantly, no, actually, it wasn’t awful.

Awful is the European refugee crisis or the death of any child. It was poo in my hair. It was easily fixed. I repeat – it was not awful. And my reason for sharing, which you have clearly missed, was not to elicit sympathy but to share a giggle and hopefully a bonding experience with another mum who is battling with this brand-new-full-full-time-job.

But, it turns out that I am not the only one, after all! The mothering landscape has changed somewhat in just three years and since having the BSCB early in 2015 I have met, in person, and virtually, a whole new breed of competitive mums.

These mums take almost Machiavellian glee in sharing the mishaps of their parenting.

They are the ones who greet your story of how your 8 month old son was found inside the dishwasher licking last night’s curry off the cutlery with tales of even more scandalous parenting fails. The modern competitive parent competes in a bizarre show of oneupmanship about just how bad a parent you can be without Social Services knocking on your door with a docket from Accident and Emergency.

In this entirely  fictional (well the Social Services part at least) scenario it would document the time you let your 1 year old put the end of a plugged in phone charger in her mouth – she reacted with surprise so you tried it too and received an alarming buzz on your tongue. Cue panicked rush to the hospital to admit the failing to lots of judgmental people who you realised could easily take your baby away… I know, exaggerating again (soz).

Of course, all of the doctors and nurses who have cared for my children over the last 3 and a bit years have been decidedly awesome and I’m pretty sure that things have to be significantly worse than that for them to even register you on their radar. Afterall, these are people who come into contact with ACTUAL bad parenting every day. And that there is the thing…

All of those parenting fails you ascribe yourself are actually not. They are just the shit that goes down when you are trying to keep a tiny Kamikaze-pilot-person alive while he or she attempts death defying acts from the top of the stairs, or the back of the settee, and you attempt to do something from real life like you know, blowdrying your hair. It’s real.

And that’s why I love the new brand of competitive parents because they are not actually competing – they are simply reaching out and saying “We all know what it’s really like. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.”

Thank you to theunmumsymum.co.uk , motherpukka.co.uk and my TRIBE – the East Dulwich Winter Mums 2015 (you know who you are xxx) for inspiring this post.