We’re all picking up the same sh*t

Parents who stay at home aren’t a blubbery, economically-useless void. A parent at home undertakes a series of daily tasks THAT SOMEONE HAS TO DO.

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imageWhy do we keep talking about non-working mothers? They are like unicorns, they do not exist. If there was such a thing as a non-working mother, “working” mothers wouldn’t have to pay someone to do their (non) job in order for them to go to work. They’d just leave the kids on the shelf at home.

This (non) job in question has an economic value which you can find out by typing the word “childcare” into Google, followed by your local area. This job only has an economic value if the person doing the job is a relative stranger to the child. That’s not to say it’s a highly-regarded career choice, when of course it should be. But the point is, it’s the SAME job, no matter who is doing it. The only difference is, one person gets a detailed job description, a salary and holidays. The other doesn’t.

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Parents who stay at home aren’t a blubbery, economically useless void. A parent at home undertakes a series of daily tasks THAT SOMEONE HAS TO DO. That parent can either go to work and get paid to do something else while they pay someone to look after their child or they can look after their child themselves. Often this depends on their individual financial and personal needs and desires, as it should. We are all different.

One of the daily tasks in childcare happens to be love. The rest, the stuff that takes up 99% of their waking time, are routine, sometimes laborious, often sticky tasks that keep a child alive and healthy. Yes, I check Facebook. Occasionally I get half an hour to write or pay my bills online or eat my lunch sitting down. Every now and then I meet some friends for lunch, which we spend cajoling, feeding, cleaning and running after our children that we can’t just leave at home to do their own beans on toast.

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Every minute of the day is spent working, whether it’s with a smile on my face or sitting rocking in a corner. This day starts at 6.30am (on a good day) and ends around 9pm (on a good day) giving me approximately an hour to myself before I need to go to bed.

Small children don’t cook their own meals, fetch their own things, go to the toilet alone, shop for food and clothes, amuse themselves, clean themselves, wash themselves, fetch their own toys, put their toys away, clean spaghetti from the walls, take themselves out and about, socialise with other humans, take themselves to bed or learn to do ANY of those things by themselves. They don’t get it instantly. They learn with the intensive help of one or more able adults over the course of a few years. Not just by watching, but by having it done for them, day in day out, and then by being shown how to do it themselves. This is a full time job, for a parent or for a childcare professional. It is truly exhausting. But all that really matters is that it’s done with care and love and that can happen at home or in a childcare setting.

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What lucky, lucky children they are in our part of the world, having food, water, warmth, toys and love. So why do I keep reading articles bickering over who is doing it? We’re all picking up the same sh*t here. Someone is doing it and, by and large, we get a generation of functioning human beings at the end of it. That’s all that matters.

Why is it only considered a job if these tasks are performed by a stranger rather than a parent, or more specifically, a mother? You don’t hear many stay-at-home-Dads referred to as non-working fathers. They are demi-gods who have sacrificed much and are rushed off their feet.

Which is what I consider every non-working AND working mother I know to be.

“I’ve been to paradise…”

wallup-119659.jpgLast night I went to bed wondering what I’d do with a few hours to myself on this Mother’s Day weekend. In my dream, I told my own Mum that “I’d like to walk down the centre of Manhattan, turning left or right whenever I want to.”

Today, I’ll probably end up sniffing books in Waterstones, missing my babies and buying them all some new trousers.

But this idea of some “me time” involves getting in the car, car parks, carrying bags, bumping into people, trying to get to the loo, trying to find somewhere to eat, all the things I spend every day doing.

It might sound conceited, or dangerously like Charlene (“I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo…”), but the only place I really want to go to is somewhere I rarely get to go. My own mind. Just sit there for a bit, quietly. To not speak, to not hear my own voice saying the same thing over and over and over again. To let myself wander around, without bags, without a buggy, without a million things running passed me or towards me.

So what I might do is go into the office, shut the door, put some headphones on and shut out everything and everyone but me for a couple of hours.

Anything to avoid ending up in H&M. Again.

Baby I don’t care

Everybody seems quite concerned about poor Kate being in labour while the world waits. But whether it’s day or night, hot or cold, once you’re in the zone, I think the sky could turn pink and small bananas could start raining down and you wouldn’t notice. I remember looking at the bag of neatly packed iPod speakers, cold compresses, hot water bottles, massage oils and other paraphernalia as merely a trip hazard during my first labour,

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Everbody seems quite concerned about poor Kate being in labour while the world waits.  Can she block it out? Will it add to the stress? And while I imagine the last few days have been a bit tense, with the media parked outside the hospital on stepladders, I also think that giving birth offers a miraculous buffer to the world around you.

Everyone’s experience is unique, of course, and I can only speak for myself, but whether it’s day or night, hot or cold, once you’re in the zone, I think the sky could turn pink and small bananas could start raining down and you wouldn’t notice. I remember looking at the bag of neatly packed iPod speakers, cold compresses, hot water bottles, massage oils and other paraphernalia as merely a trip hazard during my first labour, as I strode around the room fighting excruciating contractions. As you do.

The outside world, the last few months, the worries and concerns, all tend to take a back seat as you become immersed in the process of giving birth. Of course it’s all consuming, as your body takes you to realms of pain you could never before imagine and behaves in an incredibly autonomous and powerful way. You can buy a 100% cotton black birthing wrap dress, get your nails done, dye your eyelashes, carefully pick out the cutest first baby outfit, but on the day, you won’t care about any of those things. If you’re famous, the media might, the magazine readers might, but you won’t.

We all know how birth plans fly out of the window, and they do, and they might as well, literally. Your entire being is giving birth in whatever way your body sees fit. There is nothing else.  And as Kate doesn’t know the gender yet, she might find the moment she first sees the baby or someone tells her the gender, her reaction is one of shock.  Mine was this: “Oh! I forgot about that too!”

The female body is an amazing thing during birth, however hard or straightforward it is, and whatever way the baby is delivered. The experience inside the mother’s head  is hard to describe but I don’t think it involves much concern for those camped outside the door.

State of the Heart

“Loneliness is not a broken heart. It’s a penguin in a tutu.” I don’t know why Shane Finn was in prison, but it doesn’t matter does it? I just loved what he wrote.

Mummy bloggers talk about lots of things, you name it, health, poo, fashion, life, snot, upheavals, relationships, toys, cars, school, politics, love. But prisons? Not so much, not the literal ones anyway. Which is a shame.

I’ve always been strangely drawn to prisons, or rather the idea of being locked in a cell. During adolescence I used to fantasise about living out my days in our downstairs loo. It had everything I needed (well, a loo), and I would add a little duvet, a hatch for receiving food, a video recorder (hopefully not Betamax) and a some bookshelves. What could be nicer? No parents to deal with, no exams to sit, no job to get, no boys to make you feel just awful and sad.

Obviously,  the idea is now abhorrent (apart from those days when I want to lock myself in a cupboard), and yet when I visited Fremantle Prison near Perth in Australia in 2010, I felt a warm fuzzy glow. I can’t explain it, I can’t understand it, but I was drawn to the place. We were traveling with an eight month old BUB.1 at the time so didn’t think it wise to actually to take a tour of the cells (oh how I wished we could) but after a visit to the gift shop I was aglow. So aglow, in fact, I returned to the shop and bought a book,  a compendium of “creative works from Fremantle prison” entitled Prose and Cons.

On flicking through this narrow volume my eyes had randomly snatched the opening line of a poem entitled State of the Heart:

Loneliness is not

a long-distance runner

it’s a cooling breeze

on a hot day in summer

it’s not knowing your place

when watching a plane crash

swan diving with beautiful grace

loneliness is not a broken heart

it’s a penguin in a tutu

everyday state of the art

The reason this took my breath away was because as a teenager, as well as fantasising about living in the privy, I also started to have recurring dreams about plane crashes. More specifically I would witness a plane crashing in the distance, as I stood helpless and solitary in the distance. I had that dream for years. And here I was, in Fremantle on the west coast of Australia, twenty five years later, reading Shane Finn’s poem about that very same feeling.

I don’t know why Shane Finn was in prison, but it doesn’t matter does it? I just loved what he wrote.