To parenting blog or not to parenting blog

To parenting blog or not to parenting blog, that is the question that’s plagued me since I started these ramblings back in 2012. Have amusing stories about parenting been done to death? Clever ideas like Hurrah For Gin, Peter and Jane, The UnMumsyMum and The Scummy Mummies, they all seem to give it a new twist.

But do we get it now? We’re all either smug Mums or filthy Mums and some of us are drinking Mums and loads are nervous Mums. Anyone sick of Mums? How about a new twist? Maybe something along the lines of “We’re not crap and useless at this and we don’t need to drink a bottle of wine a day just to cope.” If I have to read another “Open letter to myself pre-kids” or “Open letter to the Mum with the shit up her arm in Tesco” or “10 things I want my daughter to know for sure” which are invariably packed full of every stereotype about motherhood and girls, I might scream. Or the worst one, the most overused: “What they never tell you before you have a baby.” Now is it me, but has that one been done so often now that there can’t be a woman in the world who doesn’t know exactly what happens when you have a baby?

And do we really live in an age where we’re supposed to know everything before it happens? Surely the surprise of having a catheter after a C- section or fishing poo (not the baby’s) out of a water birth is horrifying enough without worrying for months before that it might happen? I’ve read all sort of blogs. Blogs that have made me cry, blogs that have made me wince with their tedium. Blogs can be useful in helping parents feel less alone or just sharing experiences and getting nice comments. But is it where I want to be? Do I want to be a blogger who reviews scooters? Make a living by taking money from brands for exposure? Nope. Do I enjoy writing anecdotes and observations that might touch a chord? I do indeed. Is that what a blog is for? I have no idea. Like parenting, I’m just along for the shits and giggles.

 

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Facing the storm of change

I took this first photo of my eldest son two years ago, as he was about to move from infant school to the junior school a mile down the road. A storm was coming and I thought it captured the essence of facing new challenges head on and not being afraid. Now, two years later, my second son, has reached the same place on the climbing frame and has also started junior school. At the same time, my daughter has started school and being a third child she’s already almost at the top. My BUBs no longer toddle, they climb. They don’t dribble, they make jokes. They don’t cling to me, they soar. It’s not only a sad time. It’s brilliant.

But for a primary carer it can be a real struggle. I don’t mean the tears at the school door or the sense of our babies growing up, although that can be hard. For some people, whether they’ve been working around their children’s nursery hours or spending the majority of their time at home, it can be like leaving school all over again. Suddenly the security of the beckoning school gates, the scheduled lessons, the looming exams, it’s all gone. That stage of life has been completed – hooray – but now what? Suddenly there’s a huge blank horizon in front of us and we’re not sure what to paint across it. People start asking you “So what are you going to do now?” Going back to an old job or an existing profession is one option for some. Retraining to try something new is another. Many of the Mums who are sending their last child off to school are in their late 30s or 40s, facing a simultaneous mid-life crisis. How long do I have left to achieve what I want to? Do I even have the energy left? Will anybody want me?

For those Mums who are looking for a job around school hours, who don’t have a job to go back to or don’t want to go the full 9 to 5 and make use of wraparound care, there’s a power struggle in the mind. On the one hand you’ve got the pressing issue of earning some money, and wouldn’t that be nice and often necessary? Then there’s the need to re-enter the adult world and get some of your mojo back. On the other hand there are still the millions of jobs to do at home, the wardrobe clear outs, the garage tidies, the maintenance, decorating and don’t underestimate the day to day school admin. You also might feel you need time to just sit back and recover from the last five or more years where you’ve tried to keep on top of everything. Then there’s the exhausting morning routine, and the after school chaos, the dinner to prepare, groceries to buy, pets to walk. It can feel overwhelming. The hours between 9.30am and 2.30pm pass like lightning. If you manage to find a job within those hours or one that offers some flexibility you are winning, if that’s what you want. But before the search even begins, many Mums are left feeling a mixture of sadness, self doubt, and awkwardness. Just like many of us did as we approached leaving school.

But on a positive note, it can feel like second chance at life and it can feel like a chance at trying something new, career wise. There is absolutely loads of support online for Mums (and Dads) in this position. I’ve recently joined an amazing Facebook group called Flexible Working for Mums Like Me (Dads Welcome!) Since setting up the group in February 2018, Katy has grown this group to over 12k members. It is definitely worth checking out for support, advice and jobs. I’ve got a couple of friends who have set themselves up as successful Virtual Assistants (VA). Maybe creating your own business is the way to go? If so check out this excellent source of inspiration, Carrie Green, founder of the Female Entrepreneur Association. She was recommended to me by one of my VA friends as she’s very down to earth but has some fantastic advice. Her She Means Business podcasts are also worth a listen, and she has a book out with the same name.

Whether it’s blue skies or stormy clouds, autumn is a season of changes and dusting off the old. If you’ve just waved your youngest child off at the school gates, how are you embracing this new stage of life? Or for now are you just sitting down with a cup of tea and enjoying the silence before the storm arrives again at 3pm? If so, you deserve it.

Girls and boys

People ask me if I have noticed a difference between BUB.3, a girl, and BUBs 1 and 2, boys. Nope, I say, they’re exactly the same.

Hmmmm. Today she (purposefully) dropped an entire packet of dried spaghetti all over the kitchen floor, shattering it into small pieces. I tried to make soup, sausages and a stir fry as she proceeded to hand me pasta fragments one by one. Piece by piece, each one announced with a ‘Mu, Mu” which is “Mum”.

It’s raisins too. And baked beans. And pencils. And straws. And peas. And Lego. Each scattering of items is met with a sombre “uh oh” and then one by one, Mum by Mum, she hands me them, getting frustrated and cross if I don’t accept each one promptly and with smiles.

It’s really the only time she uses the word  ‘Mum’. So I smile each time and say thank you. And I stuff whatever she has given me in my back pocket, or on a shelf, in the bin or in the front pocket of my bag, which is at the best of times a place of deep confusion and biscuit dust.

I am used to items of all descriptions being dispersed around the house willy nilly. I am not used to this being viewed as a problem or an annoyance by anyone else but myself.

I don’t want to be sexist but I’m hoping this will extend to wet towels and toothpaste lids further down the line.

Roll with it

Listening to Oasis’s What’s the Story Morning Glory in the car on the way to the cinema, we all sang along to Wonderwall and She’s Electric but when Champagne Supernova came on we all fell silent, driving through the rain, until I asked them if they knew what a supernova was. They said no, so I told them it’s the end of a star’s life.  “How long do stars live for? asked BUB.2. “Millions and sometimes billions of years,” I said. “Longer than us then?” “Yes.” “I wish I was a star then,” he said sadly, staring out at the rain, when just seconds ago he was doing Minions impressions. “But you are,” I said, before changing the subject to popcorn and sticking “Roll with it” on. Rainy, grey days are sh*t in the holidays but sometimes there’s just a flash of magic.

Time for something new?

I’m at a crossroads. I was wondering after a few years of sporadic musings on having babies and family life and a few friendly followers (and a few more on Twitter) should I be trying to make money from this blogging? Should I be trying to get sponsorship, advertising, paid for posts? I’m a journalist so for me writing has always been a living. In order to try and grow my reach, I spent two weeks joining “linkies”, where you read a few blogs, like a few and they do the same to yours. All with hashtags. Lots of back scratching. It made me itchy. In fact, it turned into an exercise that left me morally defunct and ethically spent. I had to read a whole blog post about another woman’s child’s bowel movements in order to abide by the “rules.” I was grinding my teeth in my sleep.

Then I saw it. The Instagram post from a blogger who had snapped her kids and their Dad at bedtime story, trialing a new kind of drinking cup. And there it was. From feeding your babies milk from your aching bosom to making them an advert. To turning the most private family moments into a commercial venture. This might all be done in the name of making a living as a parent, but what do we lose in the process? And what do we teach our children?

I’ve grappled with making my children’s lives public. My Facebook page is locked down and private, and if my friends (and they are all people who I have met and care about) don’t want to see my children then they can hide me politely. They might want to hear about how my children have been delightful little prats but they might not. For safety, on my blog and Instagram, I try to keep images of my children as limited as possible.

But I need to write stuff down. You go the gym, I write. You do yoga, I write. It’s what keeps me sane, like those things keep you sane. Time is limited. I am already spread thin between three small children. I ricochet between schools, between clubs, between meals, between shops, between versions of me, to keep these children where they need to be. I want to spend more time with them. I want to spend more time with me. With their father. I see them, no longer small pudgy toddlers but long, smiling, gangly kids with attitudes as sharp as knives. Their childhood is playing out in front of me. I don’t want to be instagraming 40 times a day or hitting up brands for sponsoring opportunities. I want to hear my children. But if my heart sings, even if it’s out of tune, I will write it down because it’s what I have to do. And one thing I have learnt along this parenting journey is you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

But for me, parenting no longer feels like a separate part of my life, a new role or something to grapple with. It’s just me now. In September they will all be at school. Plus, I’ve never just written about the bubs in DiscomBUBulated.. Oh no. I’ve written about lots of different stuff —writing, relationships, health, travel, Australia, diet and education. Oh and Mr Hankey, the Christmas Poo. It might just be time to start something new.

16 unexpected ways parenting keeps you young

Sure, having children keeps you young and makes you feel like a child again. Here’s why:

  1. You need permission to go out  — not from your Mum, but from your babysitter, who is often your Mum.
  2. You become friends with the people you happen to be in closest proximity to in the school playground.
  3. Your social life consists almost entirely of a half hearted Hokey Cokey, something fizzy to drink and some unrelenting sobbing.
  4. You don’t have any money of your own and definitely none to spend on yourself.
  5. You rarely go out after dark and when you do, it’s exciting.
  6. You cry irrationally, and often.
  7. You don’t sleep beyond 6am.
  8. Sometimes you pee your pants a bit.
  9. You don’t get to decide what you do ever.
  10. You don’t get to choose what to watch on TV ever.
  11. You aren’t allowed to go to restaurants which have fragile wine glasses already placed on the table.
  12. Strangers think it’s OK to touch you, talk to you, ask you rude questions and remark on your behaviour.
  13. You leave the house with food on your clothes and sometimes your face.
  14. You are convinced that everyone hates you and what you are doing.
  15. On rainy days you long to make a camp under a duvet and stay there for weeks.
  16. You pick things off the floor and eat them before really knowing what they are.

Friday night

Friday night before kids:

Apply make up. Go out to club. Get drunk. Do shots. Fall over. Injure self. Bleed. Go home.

Friday night last week:

Remove make up. Make a cup of tea. Receive WhatsApp message from friend saying she is doing shots at her book club and has given herself a nosebleed. Reconsider joining book club. Put cup of tea on stairs while taking laundry upstairs. Put laundry away. Get distracted by putting pyjamas on. Walk downstairs, tripping over the cold tea. Fall arse over tit and rebound off the four last stairs like a lead-weight slinky. Catch scrotal-like elbow skin on stairs, ripping a gigantic flap away. Become alarmed at soaking wet pyjamas, not sure if blood or tea. Establish it is both. Decide to clean the guinea pigs out. Bleed profusely into their cage from elbow. Stain remove blood from a guinea pig cage.  Inspect flap where elbow used to be. Slap a bandage on the flap. Retire to sofa with wine, trying not to bend elbow too vigorously in the drinking process. Bend elbow vigorously and repeatedly. Go to bed.