Thursday 26 February 2015

Mothers, I don't know how you do it

I don't know how you do it, motherhood, parenting, mother diaries, parenting blog, funny parenting blog, entertaining kids, parenting activities, comparing mothers, perfect mothers

I dropped my son off at nursery at 8am this morning. I felt an immense sense of pride that I managed to get out of the house with two children on three hours sleep. Sure, I'm wearing no makeup and don't let these 'joggers' fool you, if I opened my coat you would see that they are part of the pyjama set I'm currently hiding. It would probably be a more impressive achievement if the nursery wasn't in fact five doors down from my house and it takes me all of two minutes to walk there. I see all the other mothers dropping their kids off in their work suits and made up faces and I have NO IDEA how they are functioning before 8am. NONE. I have no idea how they hold down jobs or cook dinner or keep their house in order. I have no idea how they get through their washing piles or how they manage to smile when they say "hi." I have no idea how they do it. None.

See, I almost feel like an outsider; an imposter of a mother. How did I wangle this position? I couldn't get out of bed before I had children, let alone with two of them. I've somehow scraped by, fooling people that I'm capable of being responsible for keeping proper human beings alive. That's crazy. Even simple things like clearing up and making lunch sometimes feels overwhelming. I often dread the days the window cleaner comes in case he tells all those other mothers in their made-up faces about the state of my home. There are times I pretend I'm not in when the postman comes because I'm still in my pyjamas and I'm WAY out of the 'newborn baby window of grace' to have an excuse.

And then there are the days when I don't have to be out of the house at 8am but I do have to be at home entertaining two children. There is a deep feeling of despair at the start of some of those days, like "what THE HELL am I going to do with them today?!" I have to muster up enthusiasm for play dough and baking when all I want to do is curl up into a little ball and sleep. Of course, there are days when it's all rosy too – days when I thoroughly enjoy myself and finally have an excuse to act like a big kid. There is, in fact, not a day when I do not well up with pride for the beautiful boys I miraculously helped to make. I love them with an immeasurable love. But it's not easy.

Today I have to clean my house, pay some bills and go shopping. I have to speak to a client about a job and respond to emails, most of which are from people who think I should work for 3p an hour because I am an artist. I have to feed and change and sooth a baby. Any one of these things is very doable on a full night's sleep, it's just that ALL of them seem overwhelming today. I'm still expected to look respectable after 9am. I'm still expected to remember things like appointments and birthdays. I'm still expected to be on time, to function normally, be polite and NOT respond to emails asking me to work for free with expletives.

After I get home from the nursery drop off and see all those fully functioning mums and dads I think to myself, am I the only one? Am I the only one who thinks that putting the bins out in a morning is an exhausting activity? Am i the only one who dreads going to bed for fear of being awoken again? Am I the only one who can't face sorting out the toy box or who sometimes, God forbid, can't be arsed to do this whole parenting thing today? 

At the end of the day, and thankfully there always is one of those, I somehow make it. I somehow get to 7pm and I look at my babies peacefully sleeping and all is right with the world. I wonder what all the fuss was about or why people choose not to have kids. My husband walks through the door like it's an alarm to the end of my shift for an hour or so and I feel like trumpets are resounding. I did it, I don't know how, but I bloody did it. 

Monday 23 February 2015

Why I'm no super mum: The truth behind the Facebook photos

Why I'm no super mum: The truth behind the Facebook photos

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty stubborn. When people told me I’d have to give up things to become a mother I scoffed at the notion of letting children rule my life. I was not, under any circumstances, going to be one of those mothers. I would wince when I was told things like ‘say bye, bye to your flat tummy!’ and ‘you won’t be able to paint your nails when baby comes.’  There were friends who seemed to achieve amazing things on top of juggling a family (as if raising children wasn't amazing enough on its own), at least it seemed that way from their Facebook feed. I secretly hoped that I could be one of those super mothers who ‘had it all.’  

exposing the lies, ban the bullshit, mother and son, mother diaries, funny parenting blog, parenting blog, supermum, superwoman, supermom, Facebook lies
An idyllic mother and child scene you might see on most mother's facebook profile pics

Once you become a mother, the inspirational images of woman in lycra, showing off their six packs and lifting a baby over their head with their ridiculously toned arms, are no longer that inspirational. Instead of making women feel good they make them feel a little bit inadequate. Sure, we want to know that it’s possible, but the reality of me getting a six-pack is about as likely as me getting through my laundry pile today. It kind of got me thinking about some of the lies we are fed on social media about what we are expected to become once we have children. We’re thrown lines like ‘well, she can do it, so can you!’ and we see a Facebook feed of family selfies, looking like they've just won the lottery. We compare our lives to theirs and convince ourselves that we’re constantly failing.

So, here are some of the things that I might post on Facebook which may provoke other mothers to say ‘wow, I don’t know how you do it!” As though I’m superwoman. Short of flicking my hair back wistfully and saying ‘oh, it’s nothing’, I’m here to expose the truth on the mothers who make you feel like you should 'have it all.'

1. What I want you to see on Facebook: My social life
Just because I have children doesn't mean I can't let my hair down, right? I can still party like the best of them. Hell, I'm always going out for drinks with my girlfriends and on dates with my husband, tagging myself in Pizza Express or uploading a photo of my mojito. Ooh, yay me!

exposing the lies, ban the bullshit, mother diaries, funny parenting blog, parenting blog, supermum, superwoman, supermom, Facebook lies
I can't believe I'm going out,  AGAIN! I'm just so rock and roll.

The reality of a mother with a social life:
The reality is that when I get home from (rare occasions of) socialising, my three month old is just waking up for a feed. After two hour's sleep, at 6am the next morning, all four family members will be in my bed. My eldest will jump on me, my youngest will puke on me and the bed smells of farts (no names mentioned, but I went out for a curry). This is not a great remedy for nursing a hangover, believe me.

exposing the lies, ban the bullshit, mother diaries, funny parenting blog, parenting blog, supermum, superwoman, supermom, Facebook lies
The morning after

2. What I want you to see on Facebook: A flat stomach.
I’m determined to get rid of the love handles by my finely tuned exercise regime. I might post something on Facebook, like, "Time for a workout!" Like you actually give a crap. You imagine me doing press-ups with my baby strapped to my back, followed by me downing a pomegranate smoothie. 

exposing the lies, ban the bullshit, mother diaries, funny parenting blog, parenting blog, supermum, superwoman, supermom, Facebook lies
Just off for a workout! Yay, I'm so pumped up!
The reality of having a flat stomach:
In order to workout I don’t have time to tidy away the toys or put the first load of washing on for the day. I don’t have time to shop for groceries or dust my house. I can't afford the gym. After I've dropped my four year old off at nursery and put my 3 month old down for a nap, I reluctantly roll out the yoga mat that has ben shoved behind my sofa. I find it knackering (and that's just getting the mat out). What keeping fit looks like for me is wearing old, paint splattered leggings and a greying nursing bra because I haven’t had time to shop for any appropriate gym attire. Sometimes I get my old gym clothes OUT of the washing basket to wear again because I haven’t had time to wash them. Then I do ridiculous exercises, like dancing round the lounge like a complete and utter nob head. It’s not the most aspiring scene, but it means I get a flat stomach in about a frigging year or two.

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How I look doing a workout. Please note the piles of washing and general state of my house in the background.

3. What I want you to see on Facebook: My artistic career
Kids don't stop me from ploughing on with my creative aspirations. No way, josé! I am doing oh so well in life, juggling all this with having a family too, right?

exposing the lies, ban the bullshit, mother diaries, funny parenting blog, parenting blog, supermum, superwoman, supermom, Facebook lies
Just working on another commission… I'm OH so successful in life.

The reality of freelance work:
The reality of this is that my work desk is also the dinner table AND the colouring in table all rolled into one. I either do my work at night or amidst chaos, sometimes at the same time as rocking my newborn with my right foot and playing card games with my four year old with my left hand. I have become an expert in photoshop at editing out sticky finger marks and glued on raisins. In order to prioritise creative projects, I sometimes eat Doritos for breakfast or steal my four year old's chocolate. See, I’m a really bad mother all for the sake of a bit of art. 

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My office

4. What I want you to see on Facebook: An idyllic family
I am managing to juggle family life with ease, always going out of lunch with my cute, well-behaved kids. Living. The. Dream.

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Out for lunch with this cute little fella!

The reality of family life
Balancing everything is pretty damn hard work. Besides which, my children aren't always idyllic. Yes, it's true (and neither am I at 3am). Although you may see angelic photos of my children out for lunch with me on facebook, don’t let that fool you. The reality is that five minutes later my three-month-old will have leaked shit onto my leg and my four-year-old will have had an almighty tantrum in the middle of Starbucks.

exposing the lies, ban the bullshit, mother diaries, funny parenting blog, parenting blog, supermum, superwoman, supermom, Facebook lies
He found out about the chocolate

And just for the record, I’m writing this post while I’m sat on the toilet*

*and no, you can't see a picture 

Wednesday 18 February 2015

You deserve cake, you're breastfeeding

cake, food illustration, cheesecake, mother diaries, parenting blog, funny parenting blog, breastfeeding, formula feeding, you deserve cake.

You deserve cake, you're breastfeeding

...said the lady at the baby group as I smuggled my newborn under my top and pretended I was feeding him. He wasn't really feeding: he'd fallen asleep, which is the better of the two options he does during feeding times (the other being screaming). I didn't feel very deserving, but I smiled an 'earth mother' smile and took the cake and ran (I didn't really run either, nursing bras are not that supportive).

I have to admit, I felt a bit of a phoney. I had planned to formula feed from day one because of my first baby's inability to feed without causing me to wince, but the fact that this baby took to feeding like suckling pig I figured that I may as well continue. I even quite liked having an excuse to sit in a chair and do absolutely nothing else, other than watch Friends on repeat. Apart from the distinct lack of waiter service, I even started to enjoy it. 

Until week four.

The feeding process started to take between one and two hours, and there's only so much Friends you can take. At night this meant I was getting four 40 minute naps a night – that's less than three hour's sleep. But I needed cake more than anything, so I pressed on.

I went to see a lady at a breastfeeding support centre (aka, a lady in a run-down school building full of ladies doing baby yoga). I walked in and she said "are you the lady with sore nipples?" In front of Geoff, the caretaker. I sheepishly nodded and followed her to a cornered off area which was covered in a display of children's handprints. Then she offered me cake like it was code for get your jugs out"Right, let's have a look," she said. I started to feed my baby for her to inspect but she decided that the problem may have been with my anatomy, so she called for a second opinion. In walked, no not Geoff, but a lady who was wearing a Burka and I'm sat there with both my boobs out. Imagine how ironic that scene is. It's amazing the things you do for cake.

It turned out my baby had a tongue tie, so I managed to get an appointment at the hospital to get it snipped. After a two week wait, an afternoon in an overheated waiting room and a hairy moment with a doctor and a pair of scissors, the deed was done. I went home and did some cutting of my own –  one big fat slice of chocolate cake, well deserved. 

The problem was, although there was no pain during feeding times, my baby's fussiness reached an all time high. I was exhausted at the thought of spending hours feeding and winding him. It felt like every time he fed from me he would cry, which didn't do wonders for my already sleep-deprived outlook on life. I was drained, trying to breastfeed at the same time as entertaining my four year old. My feeding chair had formed a bottom-shaped dent in it and it seemed to be getting larger by the day. I was starting to act like a bit of a martyr, something I promised myself I would not become. I wasn't enjoying being a mum, | resented it. And the trouble with deserving cake is that I could barely even cut myself a slice with only one hand free.  

So I stopped breastfeeding. 

And I no longer deserved cake. 

A week later and I'm stood in the shower and a bit of that remaining liquid gold cascades down my body. I don't expect to feel how I do; to shed a tear; to feel a sense of sadness that those nursing days are over. But I'm not allowed to grieve it, I'm no longer deserving of tea and cake and sympathy. Before children I thought that all formula feeding mothers gave up out of feminist defiance, but I'm just a mother who, like perhaps every earth mother and formula feeder who has gone before her, still grieves when she tells her body to stop a function. I'm human. 

I spoke to two mothers this week who 'confessed' to me that they gave up breastfeeding earlier than six months, as though it was a dirty secret. They only told me after I'd given them permission by my own honesty. They reeled off their medical reasons; their 'legitimate' excuses, as though looking after their mental health wasn't a valid option. They both called themselves failures – what a label. It made me feel a little sad that these women make up the majority of mothers, yet still they feel a sense of shame that they couldn't have their cake and eat it.

Apparently, 83% of women in the UK aren't exclusively breastfeeding their babies at three months (99% at six months, in case you were wondering). That's a hell of a lot of ladies who don't deserve cake. And of the cake-eating 17%, maybe some will find their experience blissful, others dutiful. Some show understanding to the 83% and some look on in disapproval. And they're not the only judgemental ones. They're shortly followed by the formula feeders who feel pressured by government targets, or bitter that they could not breastfeed and wanted to. They speak of earth mothers with cynicism, as though nature isn't lovely. 

And it makes me feel a little sad. Can't we all eat cake together?

And so I would like to tell you from one mother to another that, yes, you deserve cake. Yes, you deserve cake for breastfeeding your baby. Yes, you deserve cake for choosing to formula feed and looking after your sanity. Yes, you deserve cake for making it through another day. You deserve cake for birthing these beautiful little creatures (well frigging done, you absolute legend!). You deserve cake, you're a parent.

Now excuse me while I go cut myself a slice of lemon drizzle*.

*Still one-handed.

Saturday 14 February 2015

How to spot a sleep deprived mother

insomnia, sleep deprived, sleep deprivation, parenting blog, funny parenting blog, mother diaries, parenting, motherhood, orange juice, cup of tea, tea

How to spot a sleep deprived mother

(warning, sweary content).

I'm currently writing this at 3:36am. Freddie, my three month old baby, is sound asleep. I'm not even tired anymore - I just feel a weird kind of manic, like I'm going into overdrive. Freddie wakes 3 times a night for at least an hour at a time. I've got to a point where having five hours sleep feels like an utter luxury. I am so used to not sleeping that my body simply can't do it anymore, like some evil evolutionary development. In another hundred years women will take over the world, so used to tiredness that they somehow press on through life, plotting their next move at 4am. See, it's not even sunrise and I've already written a shopping list, put a load of washing on and put the world to rights (all in my little sleep deprived mind). My body has started to do funny things, like my hands shake when I pour myself a drink (no, it's not gin) and I ask people how they are about three times before I realise I'm repeating myself. How are you?

The problem with tiredness is that people still expect you to function as a normal human being. Sure, you're given a window of grace - a good six weeks of 'oh, don't worry, you've just had a baby, of course you're off the hook!' People are very kind and drop round meals and offer to do your washing, and then... Suddenly... Your time is up. It's time to expect raised eyebrows when you answer the door and you're STILL in your pyjamas at 2pm. It's time to start pulling your finger out when your house looks like someone has turned it upside down and given it a good shake. 

How are you?

So, here are some signs of a sleep deprived mother. You have been warned.

Swearing at inanimate objects
I told my washing machine to fuck off yesterday. Yes, a washing machine. It just looked so smug when it said 'error' on the screen because I'd tried to shove too much washing in for its pathetic, shitty little drum capacity. Do you know how much washing I have to do?! And don't get me started on the vacuum cleaner...

Pouring orange juice in your tea
Like fruit teas? Not anymore, because fruit teas now consist of pouring pure orange juice into a teabag in hot water. It's not a good taste, believe me. On Wednesday I also completely missed my cup of tea and poured scolding hot water all over my sodding hand. The kettle got what for that day.

Calling your best friend a completely different name
Please don't think me rude, I know we've known each other for twenty years but I've completely forgotten your name. Please don't make me introduce you to anyone, or worse still, please don't make me introduce my children either, I've forgotten their names too.

Forgetting to look in the mirror
I caught a glimpse of my reflection when I nipped to the shops the other day. My hair was matted to one side of my head in a mixture of sweat and baby sick. I also had toothpaste on my face but I felt quite proud of myself that I'd actually managed to brush my teeth, like it was some sort of medal of honour.

Calling your husband a dick head
Along with the washing machine, actual living things feel my wrath too, namely when I finally get to sleep and then get woken up by my husband snoring. Shut up you dick head, I mutter, like I'm ten. Sometimes he does absolutely nothing to provoke it, I just look at his face and get irritated. He got me into this bloody mess after all.

Not talking
Talking takes too much energy, it needs to be reserved for more important things like making sure your children are still alive. Talking is a luxury I cannot afford. On Thursday myself and my husband went on a date - yes, an actual date, and all I did was eat my spaghetti and stare at his irritating face*.

Sometimes I start to not give a stuff about important things, like paying bills or clearing up or feeding my family nutritious food. What's for breakfast? Bread. What's for dinner? Bread. How are you doing? Bread.

So if you spot any of these signs in a mother please cut her some slack, she may just need to be knocked over the head with a large hammer or some heavy duty sedatives. 

Oh, and how are you?

Fuck off. 

*i love him really. How are you?

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Friday Frolics

Tuesday 10 February 2015

You don't have kids, you don't understand

mother diaries, children, parenting, mothers, motherhood, parenting blog, funny parenting blog, mummy blogger, mommy blogger, childless, parents, mothers

You don't have kids, you don't understand. 

I hear that phrase said a lot by other parents, as though they have the monopoly on all worldly wisdom. I remember what that was like in my child-free days, the constant raised eyebrows when I said I'd had a lie-in, or the look of distain when I said I found it hard to juggle work and a social life. Tough? You don't know the bloody meaning of the word!

The fact is that, if you don't have a child, you don't understand me one bit. And before you react in a fit of rage from underneath my high horse, please hear me out. You have no idea what it's like having had three hours sleep to get jumped on at 6:30am by the equivalent of a baby elephant who wants me to play with him all day. You have no idea what it's like to do that at the same time as try to feed and rock and wipe the dirty arse of a newborn. You have no idea what it's like for me to do that and try to juggle a career too. You have no idea what it's like returning to a house that's full of brightly coloured plastic toys and stinks of baby shit. FML

But then, neither does the mother whose baby sleeps through the night or whose child plays happily on his own for twenty minutes. Similarly I have no idea what it's like to cope with more than two children or what it's like to have a highly stressful job and work 50 hours a week. I have no idea what it's like to live with diabetes or to need a guide dog just to walk down the road.

I have no idea what it's like to be in your late forties having wanted kids so badly and it just didn't work out that way for you.

I have no idea what its like to live alone.

I don't live your life, I don't understand.

Just because I'm a mother it doesn't mean I understand all other parents either, as though we all fit into some generic category of what a parent is. I don't understand what it's like to enjoy baby groups, for example; singing 'wind the bobbin up' ten times, complete with actions and a cheesy grin from ear to ear just doesn't happen for me. If you have a kid it doesn't mean you understand the way that I tell my four year old that his favourite game of Top Trumps is missing so I don't have to play it for the sixteenth time today, or the way I call my baby things like Trevor* when I'm out and about just to gauge other people's reactions.

And that's okay. You don't live my life and I don't live yours.

There are those without children who have far more understanding of me than those that do. There are those who do have children that have far less compassion for me in my exhaustion because their little Tommy didn't sleep at all last night. I can speak to another parent about how I'm finding life tough and then they reel off why their lives are so much harder than mine as though it's a competition as to whose life is the hardest.

The main problem with telling child-free people that they don't understand us smug stressed-out mothers, apart from being really annoying, is that it creates a huge chasm between the child-free and the with-child. The child-free woman is fed up of the with-child woman making her feel like she is less of a person for not having kids, and the with-child woman is fed up of the child-free woman for making her feel that she has no freedom.

Then there's the exclusion I face as a with-child person: the child-free friends who don't ask me out anymore, who give me a blank stare when they ask what I've done today and I reply with 'looking after children', or the roll of their eyes when they see another frigging selfie of me and my baby in our pyjamas at three o'clock in the afternoon. Underneath those pyjamas and the tired smiles and the cornflakes stuck in my hair that my four year old chucked at me this morning, is the same person I've always been.

So, no, you don't understand. You don't understand anymore than I understand you. But we do have some things in common: we all experience sadness, pain, embarrassment and laughter. We all know what it's like to miss the bus on a rainy day or to run out of tea bags when you really need a cuppa. We're all human. We may live very different lives but it doesn't mean that we can't, on some level, unite over our ups and downs. Let's stop creating a chasm and embrace our differences. Let's support one another when we're finding life tough.

Now excuse me while I upload another selfie on Facebook of me and my baby in our pyjamas...

*if you actually did call your baby Trevor, I'm sorry to take the piss out of your son's name (or daughter's for that matter, what the heck). Although I do not understand that decision, I fully embrace our differences.

Monday 2 February 2015

The top 10 phrases you'll hear as a new parent

baby names, names, naming, parenting, motherhood, mother diaries, choosing a baby name, top ten phrases you'll hear as a new parent, christening, baby blog, parenting phrases
So, you've just had a baby. You're no sooner out of your hospital gown than your aunties and uncles and next door neighbour are round with little baby grows and a wealth of advice. I thought I'd best just prepare you for the inevitable phrases you'll here once you've birthed your newborn so you can get ready with your answers. Here are the top ten:

1. "When are you having another?"
This question is like asking someone on the first day of their new job when they will be starting another one. You would have thought people would give you time to recover from your recent ordeal of what feels like discharging a baby whale from your body. Alas, no, people feel that this is a perfectly acceptable question to ask, as though you plotted on your calendar when each addition to your future army of children would arrive.  

2. "Is he/she sleeping through yet?
Why don't you just ask me if I've paid my mortgage off yet, if I've had my guttering fixed or some other utterly depressing question? 

3. What you need to do is....
The inevitable advice will follow when you say that your baby is not sleeping through. Have you tried rocking him? Soothing music? Walking him in his pushchair? Facing him towards Mecca? Yes, yes, yes, I've exhausted everything from singing lullabys to performing witchcraft.

4. You called him what?!
It's the raised eyebrows when you say what your baby is called, the queries as to whether you thought of x,y and z when you chose his or her name. No, you're right, I totally didn't think it through, I just picked one out of a hat and hoped for the best.

5. Is that breast milk?
If you get out a bottle for your baby it seems to provoke a question about whether it's contents are milked from your udders. I've started asking these people similar irrelevant questions, like, "Is your apple organic?" or "Is your coffee fair-trade?"

6. he looks just like...
Cue relatives recalling how their great granddad had the exact same eye colour or how auntie sally had a dimple in her cheeks. You didn't think your baby was unique, did you? If he or she has an unexplained feature you better get searching your family photo album for clues.

7. is he good?
No, he steals chocolate when I take him shopping. No kidding, at the age of two months.

8. Enjoy every minute!
Yes, I really loved it when my baby pooped all over his clothes today. Oh, hey, and he did this really cute thing where he screamed throughout the whole of his feed and then puked it all up all over my favourite top! What a hoot!

9. Your baby is so chilled!
Yes, he is always like this. He never cries and he's really no trouble at all. Sometimes I go a whole day and realise, oh, there he is sitting in the corner, bless him!

10. You can't imagine life without them, can you?
Yes, all the time. I imagine days out shopping without having to plan the next feeding pit stop. I imagine going on holidays and laying in the sun instead of clearing up the vomit from a child who's overdosed on sand. I imagine weekends where I get to stay in bed past 5:30am. I daydream about it often.