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.

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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.

 

 

 

A Room of One’s Own

“What’s this? A shrine to 44 years ago?” BUB.1 was watching me sort through boxes of old school work, vinyl albums, Smash Hits yearbooks and photos that had finally, at the age of 44, made it out of my parents’ loft and into mine. But not before I had relived the memories and kept a few in sight.

My whopping new 182cm x 182cm Ikea Kallax (the furniture WW resists but cannot deny saves my sanity) was up in my office, with 25 boxes to be filled. I felt like a kid at Christmas. A few hours to wallow in two of my favourite things, nostalgia and organising. So in between the new filing drawers (‘School’ ‘Important things’ ‘To do’ etc.) and a box for chargers, a box for stationery and other important things that we lose daily, I fitted in my Smash Hits yearbooks, my photos, all the books that make me inspired or happy. My diaries, my old work clippings, and still lots of boxes to fill.

BUB.1 was right in a way. Standing there, laughing at all my old stuff. My peanuts book, my Muppet Fun Book, my Just Seventeens and my Wham! Make it Big album. My Creative Writing folder from when I was not much older than he is, my project on volcanoes, a topic his class is studying now.

I keep seeing man sheds springing up, but maybe women need women caves too. It doesn’t have to be an entire room. It could be a little pop up desk with a couple of shelves in the bedroom. While men sit playing video games or using their tools, forgetting the grown up world back in the house, women can read, write, create, build or just listen to George Michael (or whoever tickles their fancy) and wallow in a time before they had the responsibilities of a family. They can just be themselves. People go on about having children changing you completely. It widens your perspective and it alters your daily tasks but I don’t think it changes the core you. I’ve said it before, there is nothing quite as therapeutic as remembering what it was like when there was just you.

The beauty of both women and men having their own caves is that no one is interrupted by the dishwasher bleeping to be emptied. Everyone is off duty. Everyone escapes.

I see you. Your children see you. Can you see you?

The thing with Instagram mums is you can’t see them. If Sarah down the road has her shoes on the wrong feet (hers, not her child’s, it can happen) you can see it. You can see her unwashed hair, her red-rimmed eyes, the numerous fish finger boxes in her recycling. You can see her ill fitting jeans.

Women have never been perfect mothers. They just never got so incessantly pulled up by the media and they never had to compare themselves to filtered Instagram addicts. Looking back over time, billions of women have looked out for each other, helped each other, listened, noticed, shared and laughed with each other. That circle of support still exists today, down the street and online. My preferred channel of support is the bloggers and the writers who call themselves things like Unmumsy Mum and Scummy Mummies and Hurrah For Gin. They don’t fit the image of ‘mother’ that has been written not just by mothers, but by men, by media, by doctors and experts. They’re written by women who have kids. Mothers.

Modern day internet heroes are those women who make us laugh, who show us their red-rimmed eyes, their fat arses, their boredom, their bottle of gin, their tearful commute to work, their daily guilt, their imperfections, their love for their children. The Sarah Turners, the Helen Thorns, the Ellis Gibsons and the Katie Kirbys.  When was it decided that there was a bar to reach? And who decided it? It definitely wasn’t the woman sitting on the bench in the park with food-stained jeans on, hiccuping back tears and wishing she could just lie down for a minute. She has always been there. She has always sat on that bench. She just never had a world of comparisons and expectations on her shoulders. Her kids are alive and they’re in the park. You did it lady, these bloggers say, every day. You did everything you needed to and sometimes you need to hear that every day.

Kids don’t see Instagram filters or symmetrical cup cakes or fashion-forward scarves when they look at you or your home. They see lines and imperfections and sometimes they see tears; they see you. Not your 3495 followers. Not your dirty kitchen cupboards. Not your Valencia-filtered home-made egg muffins. They see you. If you transcribed the average mother’s day it would probably be a mixture of “God, can you just leave me alone for two minutes” and “I love you so much I can barely breathe” but there is no such thing as the average mother. To your child, the only person in the world who makes you a mother, there is only you.

And if anyone judges you for looking at your text messages from friends that make you laugh out loud and stealing a few minutes of feeling like you while your children play, or for feeding your kids the quickest thing you can find, then you probably want to scream at them that you weren’t always a mother and being a mother isn’t all that you are and, ultimately, you are just you looking after your child as best you can.

The fortunate mothers in this world aren’t hiding in broom cupboards scared of falling short or drinking in secret or pretending this is all they ever wanted or needed. They are doing it all in the open. They’re getting on trains across cities to work. They’re flying to meetings. They’re working night shifts. They’re drowning in laundry. They are fighting every day to balance everything their child needs with what they need. And they’re writing it all down, speaking it out loud and with it, millions of shoulders feel a little less heavy. Their words, their version of motherhood, their stories. Hallelujah to that. And to any mother who receives criticism for how she has done something from someone who has no business to say so, just remember to look down the street, or online, and there will be other mothers, scummy mummies and unmumsy mums and gin-loving mums,  leaving the house with a bat cape on, with cheerios in their hair, chairing meetings, attending school plays, writing presentations, saving lives, teaching other children, taking a bottle of wine out to the recycling and resisting a very slight urge to be sick. They’re doing all of these things.

So what does this have to do with the mummy bloggers who are much maligned by some? What these amazing women are doing is they are saying: You can be both. Just be both. Enjoy your life. Enjoy you and be glad to be you because that’s all your children want or need you to be. Above all, forgive yourself for not being perfect, so that your kids can look up to the happy, confident, joyful, imperfect woman that you were meant to be. To them, you are perfect and when it comes to judging mothers, whose opinion really, really matters?