Tuesday 29 April 2014

10 things I'd want in my contract if parenting were my job.

What if parenting was your job? Oh, wait, it is, right? Unless you don't have kids yet of course, because that would be pretty weird. But seriously, what if you invested in your kids (or kid, in my case) as much as you invested in your job? Maybe you do already, in which case you are far better qualified to write this post than me. Of course you may be a full time mum, but do you take yourself seriously as such? Do you have aspirations in your role other than how many loads of washing you're doing today?
For me personally I have plenty of ambition in terms of my future and how I wish to make my money - there are things I wish to get better at, things I intend to learn; there are schedules and deadlines I need to keep and there is a certain amount of filing I need to do. I think if parenting were my job I would probably have been sacked by now. It's not that I'm a bad parent, it's just that you can never really be that good at it because it's the hardest job on the planet. There are certain aspects, though, that I don't make routine that I'd really like to, so here are the ten things I'd probably include in my contract if parenting were my job (or if I acknowledged it as such).

1. I'd like to start the day with a cup of tea but let's face it, that's never going to happen...

2. Besides caffeine infused drinks, I'd like to start each the day with a meeting. What I mean by this is that I would like to sit with my son and have breakfast with him and chat to him about his goals for the day. I'd like to make sure that he knows that he is important to me and give him the self-worth to be his greatest self each day. It is a challenge to implement this when, instead, you're chasing him round the house trying to put his trousers on.

3. I'd like to have a job description. Because, lets face it, being a mum isn't really a very clear title is it? What being a mum involves is cooking, cleaning, being good at acting (or at least silly voices), being a mind-reader, a playmate, a leader, a counsellor, an artist, a personal trainer, a teacher, a nurse and a moral guide. You will suddenly be required to know subjects you previously had no clue about so quick learning is essential. Having the ability to smell your own child's unique poo smell in a crowded play centre is also a must. You will need to function on little sleep and no pay. You will need to set routines but be completely adaptable because tomorrow your job role will be entirely different.

4. I'd like to have a lunch break. Or any break for that matter.

5. I'd like to have a schedule. What I mean by that is not a tight fisted routine - no, I mean I'd like to have plans instead of drifting through life. It's funny that I like to plan things at work but at home I just want to take each day as it comes. There are good things about that too of course - about having a bit more freedom with your family because, lets face it, it's rare things always go to plan anyway where children are concerned. But what if I actually considered the things that might be good for my son to do in a week? What if I took on board his need of rigorous exercise instead of avoiding the rain? What if I made note of his current love of sticking and cutting and I planned to do a collage together instead of lumping him in front of the TV?

6. I'd like sick day entitlement. Seriously, have you tried to have a day in bed with a crazy child running round the place? I'd rather be sat in an office.

7. I'd like to fulfil ambitions. No, that's not so I can compete with other mums and make sure my kid is the brainiest in class, honest. But I would like to see what talents and interests my son has and think more long-term about how to encourage him. I'd like to think strategically about how to develop his love of languages or geography or numbers in fun and exciting ways. How can I implement it into our days and weeks?

8. I'd like to have appraisals. Actually I'm very lucky that I have good people around me who are willing to tell me when I'm doing a good job and likewise will be honest with me if I'm not. It's so important to get feedback and to learn from other people, otherwise you will just oscillate from being the best mum in the world to being a total failure. Let's face it, no one is perfect and we need to get all the help we can.

9. I'd like to work 9-5, and not bring my work home with me. There's no end to parenting which is exhausting to say the least and no one tells you when to put your feet up - you're continually working overtime. I guess I'd like more realistic work conditions because, quite frankly, I'm done in.

10. I'd like a pay rise.

If you had a parenting contract what would you add?

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Three. It's the magic number.

Three year olds will teach you more about life than any professor or intellectual ever could. Okay, so they may not not baffle you with their knowledge about the universe but there's something about their look on life that is almost like magic as you enter into their world. Their innocence is a breath of fresh air, reminding us what life is really all about. Here are some of the things I'm learning from my three year old:

He tells me when to stop.
Although the drone of 'mummy will you play with me' all day long may seem slightly trying, I have learnt that, although not always practical, doing the unproductive task of pretending to be a shop keeper will always be more rewarding than hoovering up. Sometimes I try the sneaky 'let's watch a film' option so that he is distracted enough to let me get on with other things. Instead he looks at me and says "sit down mummy" and when I perch on the edge of the sofa he says "not there, next to me." You see, something magical happens when you stop trying so hard to complete things and you just let life kind of 'happen'. I feel the warmth of his little chubby cheeks next to mine and snuggle into his soft, fine hair and I feel more alive than I have done since, well, the last time I hung out with a three year old. Or maybe not just any three year old, but mine.

He gives me an amazing sense of freedom.
Before I had a child I was warned that they take away your freedom, but I put to you that I actually have more - It just depends on what you consider being truly free to be. I learn that dancing in the street is okay and singing on the bus is perfectly acceptable when you have a three year old as your ally. You can practically get away with anything. I am enjoying being able to talk about silly things in inappropriate places and snigger as he innocently comments at everything with his quirky view on life. I'm allowed to laugh out loud because I'm with a three year old.

He tells me to look at the world differently.
I remember driving and seeing some horrible council flats in the distance. Suddenly a little voice piped up from the back seat 'mummy, look at those beautiful castles!' Wow. I'm not sure I will every see those flats as beautiful castles, but imagine being that content with life, that optimistic? Imagine seeing your everyday dull things as new and exciting? I for one want to hang around with people like that. Their zest for life is infectious.

He speaks his mind.
No skirting around the issue, no tact. If a three year old wants something they'll make it pretty damn clear they do. No pleasantries or social awareness, they are happy to speak their little minds. When they say no, they mean no, when they say yes, they mean yes. Imagine if you were that honest? Imagine if you stopped trying to please everyone and you did what you really wanted? Obviously this needs to be curbed in some way or the world would be full of selfish little brats but you get the gist. Three year olds are true to themselves and we have a lot to learn from that.

His trust is like no other.
There's quite a responsibility when someone trusts you so much. How do you live up to that? Do you know how it feels to have someone trust you explicitly, to believe in you so much that they inevitably will hold on to your words for quite some time? It's quite scary at times because we all know we are far from perfect and make mistakes, but that doesn't stop them from relying on you as their guide. It's made me want to trust other people more, to believe in them and learn from them, it's made me want to give people a chance. It would be great if we sought to see the good in everyone instead of being so sceptical all the time.

He's hilarious.
Funny people make you feel good, there's something medicinal about laughter. There's something even funnier about a three year old's sense of humour, whether that's doing daft dance moves or telling naf made-up jokes or saying adult phrases in their tiny voices, they're bound to put a smile on your face. Their laughter is infectious, it has no limitations, no self consciousness - just sheer and utter joy.

Of course there are plenty more things that I'm learning from my three year old, probably too many to mention. The fact is, life with a three year old is not easy, along with the perks are the trying times: the battles at tea time, the tantrums at bedtime. But since I've begun to let him teach me about life through his eyes, life has got a little easier for me. I don't care so much if my house is a mess, or if I'm behind with my piles of washing, because I treasure the limited time I have with my little man. I'm slowly beginning to see how life could be very different if I were even just a little bit more like him. Three. It's the magic number.

Friday 18 April 2014

Count to five - tips for keeping calm as a parent

Keeping calm as a parent is no easy task. Who would have thought that someone so small could have so much power over your time, resources, energy, and your restraint for alcohol. Some days you will have lost your cool before breakfast and you feel it's all downhill from then on in. Well, if you're on the edge and wondering how you will get through the day I'd like to give you five tips on how to keep calm amongst the chaos.

1. Take a deep breath.
This is mainly to stop the instinct to shout expletives at your child. Imagine if you stopped every time you got angry and allowed for a long, deep breath? Screaming at your children is like an alarm bell in their heads for turning their misbehaviour up a notch, they love the attention and will only make you react further. Besides which, it's not even breakfast time yet, you haven't cleaned your teeth. Please don't submit your child to last night's curry.

2. Count to five.
Despite making your child feel time pressured into doing what you want them to do and allowing you time to calm down, this also bides you time for working out what the hell the consequence will be at the end of it. You've just about reached to five when you remembered the chocolate cake you promised him for pudding is potentially yours. It's basically a win win situation. Calm child or chocolate cake.

3. Talk to them like children
They hate it. How would you feel if you were told you didn't get that work promotion because you didn't quite have enough intelligence? Damn right you do, and you'll prove it! Before you know it, your child will be sat compliantly, waiting for their next promotion. This is the perfect opportunity for your child to prove just how 'adult' they want to be by getting them to do all those chores you hate. Before you know it you have a ready-made cleaner and you can put your feet up (until they twig that you're an adult too and you might need to chip in).

4. Hide.
If all else fails and your child is safe (good parenting disclaimer) go and lock yourself in the bathroom. Having a child screaming in your face isn't going to do your stress levels any favours, you need to compose yourself. Alone. If your child cannot be left to his own devices then invest in some rather large headphones and play some sort of tranquil whale music or something to calm you down. And if that doesn't work, try drowning their whines out with Metallica.

5. Wine. For you, not the child. And always drink responsibly (good parenting disclaimer).

The last resort.

Sunday 6 April 2014


If you know me you will know that I have found parenting, well, a little overwhelming at times. I have had periods when I regretted even becoming a mother at all, not because of my son, but because of my ability to cope with him; my ability to give my all, my best, and I felt as though I were constantly failing him.

Of course I soon came to the realisation that, yes, I do constantly fail him but actually that's OK. It's okay because I love him with a bottomless ocean of love and good intentions; an endless supply of burnt fish fingers and sloppy kisses. Children have a lot more grace than we realise and each new day brings new opportunities for better things, and more vigilance when cooking frozen food.

Lately I am learning to come to peace with a lot of disappointments I've had about becoming a mother. I have accepted the fact that I will never be perfect. The reality is, the real failures are the things we haven't even considered; the things we don't even acknowledge as such, and we sweep them under the carpet along with odd jigsaw pieces and broken crayons. I am learning that my son loves me just because I make him breakfast and I read him stories and I tell him no and yes and maybe at all the times I think appropriate, and although those things may not get me the mother of the year award, it actually is enough.

But being a mum seems to be more than just you and your child because it sometimes feels like you against the world. I have struggled with judgements from other people, the expectations, the pressure I've put on myself. I have struggled with body image, identity and juggling a career. All these things have been tough, but the thing I have found hardest is finding a way to come to peace with my disappointments. These are deep rooted in those early days; the missing out on a natural birth, the 'skin to skin', the way they took him from me before I could look him in the eyes, the way they placed him on me when I couldn't even move to touch him. My idillic hope of spending my first few days with my new family turned into nights on end in a hospital room with a screaming child, while the nurses told my husband visiting hours were over. I felt abandoned and alone.

That's over three years ago now and you're probably thinking that I should just forget about it, but what that would mean is sweeping it under the carpet along with those odd bits of jigsaw pieces and never really dealing with it at all. What that means is that life is all rosy on the outside, but every time someone mentions they had an 'easy' labour or they loved breastfeeding or felt 'on a high' after giving birth that I feel like punching them in the face - and that, my friend, is not dealing with anything at all. You will meet a lot of women who are carrying a lot of unnecessary disappointments and unless they are dealt with they will be left to rot.

I've realised that it's time to accept these things for what they are and to start again like a child would; each new day brings new opportunities for better things. Because the reality is, that when Albie was placed on my numb body for the first time, he looked at me and he stared at me with his intent gaze, and he knew exactly who I was, even if I or the rest of the world didn't. His eyes said 'mum, is that you?', and that, actually, was enough.