The Importance of That One Friend, or, How it’s OK to Not be OK


While you’re expecting your first baby you are surrounded by other women who are already mums. None will tell you it’s going to be easy as a new mother, but all will, quite naturally, emphasise the good points. How much you’ll love your baby, the fun you’ll have together, how many beautiful baby clothes there are in the shops at the moment, etc etc. And besides, when you’re expecting your first child, what life will be like with your baby isn’t your primary concern. Your mind is instead fixated on the quite unfathomable concept of how the baby will enter the world through your lady parts! I used to spend hours worrying about that! It seems ridiculous now! As ridiculous as knowing you’re about to fight a 100ft dragon, and worrying about what colour shoes to do it in!

For as I found out, your battle is not in the labour room. Your battle is at 3am when your baby has barely slept at night for a week, and you’re hallucinating with tiredness. And your baby wants you to comfort them, again, but you’d sell your Nan for an hours sleep! Your battle is at 5pm when your husbands at work, your toddler goes into meltdown mode and you’re trying to calm him down, make two different dinners (a toddler clinging to your thigh by a hot stove is a real treat!), tidy up from the play date you’ve had (how do two tiny people and two frazzled mums drinking luke warm coffee make so much mess??) and then he has an accident!

And all the time you’re fighting these battles, particularly in the early days, there are the happy bloody mums and their happy bloody children. The happy mums on packaging, on advertising, on fucking Topsy and Tim! And don’t get me started on Flop!

And even most of your friends! “Ah, it is hard, but it’s worth it, isn’t it!” (Is it?? I could have had a holiday in the Maldives with what I’ve spent on Tommee Tippee products!) “Ah, we wouldn’t change them for the world though, would we!” (Hell yes! I’d like my baby to cry less (6 straight hours was the boy’s record) and stop doing such explosive shits he pretty much writes off the entire building he’s just done it in!)

And you think, what the hell is wrong with me? I love him, don’t I? Why can’t I cope and everyone else is just fine? And then…. there’s the one friend!

The boy happened to be born on the same day as the little girl of a friend of mine. We bumped into each other hours after they were born, both a little high, a little emotional, and each newly in posession of two things: a tiny, red person and a searingly painful scar. It was 35 degrees that day. It was tough.

We met again 3 weeks later. I had no desire to leave the house. The boy was prone to bouts of inconsolable crying, for which I was certain people would judge me as a terrible mother, and my undercarriage was still a touch delicate as I had given birth to the child with the world’s most massive, round head! But the one friend was sporting the much more painful scar of an emergency c section and so I thought, if she can go out, then I should be able to do it too!

And we met, and we pushed ‘the sprouts’ (as they came to be known) to a nearby park. And we sat down. (Ouch!) How are you doing? Oh, ok, you know, a bit tired. And then we made eye contact. All crap was suddenly cut through in a second. “It’s shit, isn’t it!” Said the one friend. “Oh God! Yes, it is! It’s truly awful!” And we sat, and held each other and we cried. We cried for the life we once had and would never have again. For the fact that giving up that lovely life had been our decision, our doing! For the fact we were each sporting the physique of Jabba the Hutt. For it all. The pain. The tiredness. The guilt for feeling this way! We were broken. And all the time the sprouts lay happily in their prams, carefully shaded from the sun that was burning our skin, looking at the trees and wondering what their thumbs were for. Blissfully unaware.

And the one friend has been there ever since. And we talk honestly and openly about how we feel. The highs, the lows, the really lows. And we drink tea, and we drink wine, and our husbands discuss the cricket. And the sprouts play happily together (well sometimes!). And the four to six of us together read, we build dens, we paint, we make play doh models, we dress up, we go for days out to places with play grounds and miniature railways and soft play areas and animals, and we have an amazing time. And sometimes? Sometimes it isn’t amazing! Sometimes it sucks! It rains, one or both sprouts go mental, someone loses their shit (usually me!), and it’s an unremitting disaster! But it’s ok. Life continues.

And over the last three years the one friend and I have come to two important conclusions:

The truth of the matter is that it’s perfectly possible for something to be utterly amazing and utterly horrific at the same time. Having a baby is the very essence of yin and yang, heaven and hell, black and white. It doesn’t just change your life. It gives you a completely different life that in no way resembles the one you were living before. It is so incredible, so remarkable, so insanely beautiful that at times it makes you feel your heart will burst with happiness and pride! And then, it’s so hard, so tiring, so thankless that it takes every ounce of mental, physical and emotional strength you posess just to get up each day and keep going. It’s both. It’s everything. And that’s OK. What you feel at both ends of the spectrum is normal and natural and it’s ok. You’re allowed to have those feelings! You’ve bloody well earned them!

We have also learned another important lesson. As we have observed other mums chatting to each other for ages or sitting staring at their phones while their children play alone without bothering them we have wondered, why don’t ours do that?? “Mummy look at me! Look how high up I am! How high up am I mummy? Mummy, come down the slide with us! Which side of the slide do you want to go down? Mummy, this little boy has got the same t-shirt on as me! What are you eating? Can I have some! This is fun isn’t it Mummy! What are we doing next?”

We finally realised, they want attention because they’ve always had it. And rightly so. And some of the others, well maybe they haven’t. The boy sits and chats to me while I’m on the toilet. The boy spends most of his nights in “the family bed”. The boy expects his days to be full of fun and activities and conversation and affection and is digruntled if it isn’t.

Because parenting is like anything. Like a job. Like a new fitness regime (I imagine!) If it’s so tough you aren’t even sure you can do it any more. If it takes everything you’ve got. If you constantly question whether you could be doing more or better. If it’s the hardest bloody thing you’ve ever had to do! Then honestly, that’s when you know you’re doing it right.

Cheers Parents! ¬†ūüć∑

(And cheers to you my friend! X)


The 3 Great Loves of a Toddler…

love-wallpaper-131) Mummy!

Your toddler loves you more than he can possibly express! He loves you in an intense and slightly uncomfortable way (like a stalker would if you invited them to live with you!) Your toddler’s deep affection for you compels him to accompany you on all errands, and ideally participate in them too!¬†“Mummy needs a poo! I shall keep her company and help her flush! She’ll like that!” “Mummy is hoovering! I shall remain 6 inches away from her at all times! People can get lonely while hoovering, and besides, having to avoid my tiny toes will add an exciting element of risk to the activity and make the whole thing more fun!” (Your toddler is always thinking about you! #selfless)

A toddler is all about physical contact! A fierce headbutt to the groin is a show of deep affection from a small person. And clinging to your thigh as you try to navigate the kitchen while cooking dinner is a real toddler speciality and a particular treat! Boiling liquids plus clingey toddler equals maximum fun!

If you ever “co-sleep” you will know that chosing a side of the bed and sticking to it is not a route your toddler will go down! He prefers to sleep pressed up against you like a draft excluder, or else just directly on your face! Personal space is a concpt that is lost on the under 5s! In a toddler’s ideal world all members of the family, including pets, would just sleep in a big pile, like hamsters! “A room each?! What a waste of space!” Your toddler also exudes so much heat at night that they spend the whole time pink and moist with sweat, which makes the whole face-sleeping experience even more of a treat! #onelove,onebed,let’sgettogetherandfeelalright!

2) The favourite toy!

All toddlers have one! Hygeine-wise your toddler’s favourite toy is up there with toilets at festivals and a tramps trousers! This is due to the fact that this prized creature gets even more close physical contact than Mummy! It is carried to dinner, to bed, to the toilet, to nursery, to friends’ houses and on holiday (May the Lord help you if you leave it there! We have been known to pay more than the original price of the chuffing bear to have it shipped back to us from a holiday destination!)

It is like a member of the family to your toddler! So he takes great offence to you attempting to wash it! The same goes for his favourite blanket! He doesn’t want to be parted from it and he doesn’t want its unique odour to be altered! So after years of love and occasional chewing from some milky chops, the toy resembles a wild sloth, whose time spent in a warm, damp environment gives him a greenish-brown hue and a smattering of moss! #fresh!

3) The Favourite TV Character!

All Toddlers have one! In our house it’s Bing! But in others it’s Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, the list goes on.

Now, the first 26 times you watch Bing, it’s great! It’s funny! A lovely cartoon about the adventures of a young bunny!¬†After another 50 times it gets a little tiresome.¬†But after 500 times, you begin to fantasise about ways in which Bing could meet his demise, like some kind of rabbit-hating psycho! Over dinner some parent friends and I frequently come up with episodes of Bing we would like to see made by the BBC, including Bing Gets Run Over By a Truck, Bing Meets a Greyhound and Bing In a Pie!

The boy hero worships that irritating, whiny little sod! He impersonates him, has every chuffing Bing toy, book and magazine ever made, and reacts to things like Bing would! (#whatwouldJesusdo?)

If only the BBC would make a show about a little boy who’s sole mission in life was to behave beautifully, eat vegetables and play quietly on his own while his parents drank wine! Now that’s one I could get into!

Cheers all! X

The Boy and Nursery…

2016-09-18-15-00-28So¬†last week the boy began nursery! Hurrah! (Opens celebratory bottle of wine and retrieves a glass…) I am far from counting my chickens, however! For this is not the first time! (Forces cork back into bottle and grumpily puts glass away!)
We have been trying in vain for some time to coerce the little energy-stealer into undertaking a few nursery/ child-minding sessions. You know, to ensure we are allowing him sufficient opportunity to interact socially with his peers, and to increase his sense of independence. Ha ha ha!! Not really!! Give Mummy some alone time, for the love of God! I just want to take a shit in peace, drink a hot cup of tea and get through an hour of my life without watching, discussing or re-enacting an episode of chuffing Bing!!
However, whereas other people’s tots appear to run happily into their parents’ childcare establishment of choice, taking great delight in everything it has to offer and seeing the staff as some kind of wondrous, Mary Poppins-esque figures,¬†who they love as dearly as family, thus far this has not been the boy’s attitude.
He has instead generally taken a look round each carefully chosen and highly Ofsted rated nursery and looked at us as if to say¬† “What the hell is this all about?? Are¬†you fucking serious?? I have access to paint, crayons, cars and books already! And what’s more I can enjoy them in the comfort of my own home without the threat of some drooling oaf¬†who is named after a footballer¬†trying to take them from me and use them as a weapon with which to beat me over the head! That child over there looks like something from Deliverance, and this box of dumper trucks hasn’t seen a Dettol wipe since you and Daddy thought having children was a good idea! Utterly ridiculous! Start up the Focus, Father, we’re leaving!”
OK, he was just whingey and clingy and ultimately too upset to keep going, but I knew what he was really thinking!
Anyway, we’re¬†now three¬†days in and thus far he hasn’t refused to go back! I suspect he may just be¬†playing a long game, which will ultimately lead to my demise (He often¬†is!) but we have everything crossed he may finally yield and join in with the normal children!
(Part of me hates to break his spirit though! Being normal is never something anyone in this family has done well!)

Watch this space!

Cheers Parents!


Toilet Training The Boy…

So we’ve been putting this off for some time. Waiting, as you are advised to do, for a sign that he was ‘ready’! (What the hell is that? “Father, I have decided I no longer wish to have my arse cleaned by you and Mother! Fetch me a pair of Calvins!”) But as he reached the age of 3, we had still seen no such sign, so have been forced to take the plunge!
Toilet training a toddler! Sweet Lord of Dettol and Plenty! It’s like an exceptionally lengthy and tedious round on the Crystal Maze! Your task is to figure out the exact moment that a small and particularly mobile person will need to pee or poo. Sounds simple! But as there are 1,440 minutes in a day, and the small person himself hasn’t the remotest inclination to be of any assistance, your chances of getting it right are slim! You watch him like a hawk, you ask him if he wants to use the potty, you sit him on the potty… nothing. Should you, however, dare to leave the room for such trivial purposes as eating or using the bathroom yourself, the chances of the small person casually knocking one out on the carpet increase tenfold!
And should you fail (obviously you will, repeatedly) your punishment is to continue with your initial task while also undertaking a super human amount of washing, wiping, scrubbing and clothes-changing!
The small and particularly mobile person is in fact your opponent! He has no desire to sit on the toilet! It takes valuable time out of his busy toddler schedule and serves no purpose to him! He will look at you like you’ve lost your mind, wondering why you suddenly care about the fact he’s soiled himself when it hasn’t bothered you for 3 solid years! (Mental! Probably been on the wine again!) Besides, if he yields to your wishes this time, it may increase your sense of power over him in the long run, and that goes against everything he, as a toddler, stands for!
The whole situation is just ridiculous! It creates a cocktail of guilt, pressure, stress and frustration and leaves you, for quite some time, with nothing to show for your efforts but a full tumble-dryer and a scent pervading your house that suggests you have purchased a home fragrance from the Air Wick Bodily Functions Collection!

Good times!

Cheers Parents!

The Supermarket Run…

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To me the supermarket run beautifully exemplifies the subtle differences between life pre and post boy!
Pre boy, shopping was a leisurely and luxurient saunter through the aisles, perusing wine labels looking for ‘key notes’ and picking up ingredients for romantic dinners, which you could spend hours over, discussing your day and laughing like the slim, free spirited, bastards of leisure you were! Occasionally you would notice yourself in a glass door or freezer cabinet and think how slender, fit and stylish you were, safe in the knowledge this would never change and you would never be one of those people that stops caring! I mean, my appearance will always be important to me!
Supermarket run with the boy? “Choose one Steve, damn it, we have 10 minutes till this becomes tiresome to him and he loses his shit! Run if you have to! Just run and I’ll throw random items into the trolley! Fuck it, we’ll be able to make a meal from whatever we make it back to the car with! Who doesn’t love beetroot and peanut butter pasta with salami and beans! He’s not looking happy Steve, give him a chocolate button! Right no, he’s starting to cry! Just leave it, abandon the trolley and get back to the car for the love of God! Let’s just go! Before someone calls Social Services! We can just live on cereal and takeaways! We do anyway!”

And as you run, you notice what appears to be a bewildered, slightly overweight, homeless woman in the glass door where the fittie used to be, and you realise… Oh shit! It’s you! It’s happened! You’ve become utterly ridiculous! You’ve become a mum!

(And at this point one of your deepest regrets in life is purchasing (mid-pregnancy) a changing bag with the words “Yummy Mummy” emblazoned on the side of it! In fear of being sued under the Trades Description Act you head for the Focus even faster!

“Don’t judge me!” You shout to passing strangers, as you bounce along! “I didn’t know!! I just didn’t know!!”)

Cheers Parents! ūüć∑ x