Alex Holder is Acting Content Director at ELLE UK. When she shared this list it sent shivers up my spine. Ben and I were the first of our mates to have kids and, I’ll cut to the chase, it was shit and lonely, I cried often about feeling out-of-sync and misunderstood. The good news (for me) is they’ve all now popped out nippers too. So everyone’s FINALLY in the same boat (by boat I mean ‘up shit creak without a paddle).
Alex’s account is spot on:
When you tell people you’re pregnant their reactions range from ‘On Purpose?!’ to the more blatant ‘Are you going to keep it?’
Cass is now a year old and people will still say ‘Were you actually trying?’
Everyone wants you to come to the pub pregnant but no one wants a sober pregnant person still there at 10pm.
You realize that previously you socialized in 12-hour chunks – lunch would turn to dinner which would lead to a 3am huddle in someone’s kitchen. You now have 2-hour slots to see people and wonder how that will ever feel like enough time to catch-up. To be honest, it never quite does.
None of your friends understand why when you’re pregnant you need the father-to-be to stay in with you on a Friday night.
‘But, Mark can still come out right?!’
‘Er, no he can stay in and research prams with me’.
You have to accept that when you can’t see your friends for those 12 hour benders, the only time you will see them is after they’ve had 2 hours sleep and need a cuddle and a nap on your couch.
You realize hungover people are incredibly flaky.
People ask your age and you then watch them have a think and work out that 32 is a perfectly reasonable age to give birth to a child.
And then you see that you’re only a couple of years off the NHS labeling you a ‘geriatric mother’.
And that most of your school friends have already spawned 2 or 3.
You become parents to all of your friends not just your kid. Mark and I answer to Mum and Dad a lot and Cass can’t talk yet.
Your friends are genuinely interested in your baby. They’re not just a new person; in their world babies are an entirely new concept.
Like losing your virginity first, you get a smug feeling that you’ve struck upon life’s gold a little before them.
Cass has a lot of very fun ‘Aunties’ and ‘Uncles’
Cass has received insanely wonderful, super stylish gifts. He spent the summer in a tiny tasteful poncho bought for him from Mexico and he was made a bespoke leather bondage mask for his first birthday.
Those post midnight friends of yours? Well, you’ll never see them again, and if you do, eighteen months later on a rare night out, it’ll be really awkward.
You feel very lucky that you have this new wonderful life as a parent, but also that your old life is still there fairly unchanged. It’s not like all of your friends have given birth and moved to Brighton.
An evening baby sitter is pointless; unless I’ve got someone for the morning duty I stay in.
That Friday evening group text ‘Spurstowe at 8’ can still sting.
But the morning cuddle followed by a messy breakfast for three with ‘Saturday Kitchen’ on the TV makes up for it.
The other first time Mum you meet who understands both your old life and your new one, who you can be both Mum-Alex with as well as pub-Alex, well, for a time she becomes all your friends at once. Find one other first time mum you like.
It’s actually quite wonderful that your friends have no idea you scooped a poo out of the bath before coming to the pub and talking nap times with them just isn’t an option. It stops you becoming just mum.
Also as none of them have kids it means they’re occasionally willing to look after yours and you can still join them in the pub on a Sunday afternoon without creating a buggy carpark.
In photos of you and your friends you can spot you’re the only one sporting Mum bags under the eyes.
Don’t expect all your friends to go on a crazy one just because you have a babysitter, they were probably out until 2 last night so lower your expectations.
Three and half years ago we had outgrown our first flat in Balham, South West London, and wanted to buy a house. Our hearts were set on the Bellenden Road area of Peckham (yup, what a cliché). Problem was the more we looked, the more obvious it became that we couldn’t afford what we wanted. Then one day The Right Move Gods shone down on us. And our future home popped up.
It was what we wanted. Where we wanted.
It was 100k below budget.
Problem was it smelt like death.
In fact, the smell was so strong that the rancid aroma of decomposing stuff clung to your clothes for days after a visit.
Oh, and apart from the stench, the only toilet was outside.
And the ‘kitchen’ was in the second bedroom.
But, at the time, Bertie was 8 months old and a terrible sleeper.
So, in a cloud of hormones and sleep deprivation we decided ‘A Project’ was just what we needed. Idiots.
We sold our flat.
Our gorgeous first home with Farrow & Ball Downpipe walls and a nice garden and exchanged it for a crumpling pile of bricks in ‘the right postcode’.
“When you said it was a wreck, you weren’t exaggerating” muttered our parents the first time they visited. Their tone suggested we had finally bitten off more that we can chew.
But by then it was too late. We were in our rented accommodation in Peckham. In a flat that closely resembled a Halls of Residence. Every Friday & Saturday Night the base from club nights at The Bussey Building made our headboard shudder.
And then suddenly we were doing it. Making it up as we went along. Learning from our mistakes. Here, in no particular order, is what we learnt:
Install more plug sockets than you think. You will always be grateful.
White for the win. There are soooo many decisions to make along the way that, although I love a muted paint swatch, we decided to go for bright white throughout.
It’s the cheapest option. We planned to add colour once we’d moved in.
We haven’t. I now love the white. It’s really calming.
Unfortunately The Boys find it an inviting canvas to draw on. Still, at least its easy to repaint.
Don’t under estimate the cost of boring stuff. A house-worth of skirting boards add up. Top tip: we went for MDF ones with a Victorian profile. You couldn’t tell they weren’t real wood.
Spank the cash on one thing in each room. It gives the impression of the whole space being more high-end than it actually is.
A Rangemaster oven, but a Magnet kitchen.
Burlington shower, shower unit from the Bathroom Store.
Fallen in love with poured concrete? Us too. But it’s expensive and difficult to lay. These ‘Concreate‘ tiles were a good alternative.
Similarly if you want column radiators , but can’t stretch to the super fancy (and very pretty) ones these do the job.
Ebay + Anyvan are your friend. Means you can get reclaimed stuff from further a field. Our Victorian school sink was my best find.
I love Fired Earth, it’s tile porn. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford them (there’s a theme here).
We also had a terrible incident where Bertie puked all over the Dulwich branch, so that also put us going in there.
BUT, according to an internet forum these metro tiles from Tons of Tiles are made in the same factory as the Fired Earth ones. Who knows if it’s true but we’ve been pleased with them.
Pinterest the shit out of it. It’s the best my way to figure out what you like. I pinned and pinned (and did my husband’s head in with options). Eventually it became obvious what I was after.
Don’t get too obsessed with designing for resale (unless you are property developer).
Design it for how you want it. Homes are expensive, you ought to enjoy living in it.
And the chances are there will be another person, couple or family out there who will want exactly what you are after.
Fun touches don’t have to be expensive. Our ‘disco lights’ up the stairs are just strip of LEDs.
We had hopes of making the place great for a house party. In reality they are a brilliant way of illuminating the stairs for kids who wander to your bedroom in the middle of the night.
Ikea picture rails. We have them right across the two largest walls downstairs. That way you can move art/photos about without screwing up the walls.
Our ‘statement wall hung seating’ in the kitchen. Is actually just a changing room bench. Which is just as well because it’s permanently covered in bags, miscellaneous clothes and cardboard that can’t fit in the recycling bin.
The build will cost more than you think.
It will take longer than you think.
There will be more tears than you think.
You will spend in inordinate number of weekends in Screw Fix.
And lose sleep over the merits of charcoal vs light grey grout. We avoided making a decsion by going for one in each bathroom.
LED’s are frighteningly expensive. It’s an investment. Three years later they haven’t needed changing. And they’re good for the environment too.
Dust is a mother fucker.
Go with the flow. Our exposed brick wall and RSJ beam weren’t planned. During the build I fell a bit in love with them and decided to keep them. Plus it saved a job, which is a victory in itself.
(Quick interlude: one thing you DEFINITELY shouldn’t do when you are skint and stressed and living surrounded by tools and builders is decide to get pregnant again. Yup, we’re dickheads).
Still, doing a home renovation is very much like having kids:
There are times when you feel regretful, and question why you did it. But by that point there is no turning back.
You wonder why people didn’t warn you how hard it is. (They did, you just chose to ignore it).
There’s guilt. Because, like growing a human, being able to design your home from scratch is a priviledge. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t reduce you to a snotty weeping mess on more than one occasion.
Though it’s ageing and bankrupting memory is selective. I struggle to remember all the badtimes of our build.
Even after all these years, I can’t believe that this small patch of London is ours.
The fact that it has made us money is, of course a MASSIVE bonus.
But the thing that really gets me, is knowing every doorhandle, tile and shelf was choosen by us. The blood, sweat & blazing arguments were TOTALLY worth it.
The best things in life often come as a result of taking a risk, working hard and, unfortunately, a hefty credit card bill.
And then there’s all those priceless memories we’ve made within those four walls: Woody’s birth, countless family meals and bottles of wine with mates, lazy Sundays and cosy Friday nights. THAT. That is what it’s all about.
Doula’s are a bit like Mary Poppins; they carry around a bag full of weird and wonderful things in to enable their women to have the birth they want. Here lovely Jenna Rutherford AKA The Minimalist Doula reveals all what is in hers.
**Spoiler alert: it includes a velvet vagina. Yes, actually.**
So as a doula I’m often asked, ‘you’re a what?’ followed by, ‘oh so what do you actually do then??’ Well you know what, it’s not that easy to define, it’s not tangible like so many things are these days in our consumerist ‘things’ culture. How do I explain that I create a feeling? In my humble opinion, as a doula, I’ll offer you emotional and practical support, signpost you to information of interest, be a continuous confidante in your pregnancy but it’s so much more than that. It’s love ️ in it’s purest form. I completely fall in love with what you hope for, for your birth, and then I try everything I can to help you achieve this. I understand, first hand, the power of a positive, empowering birth experience and it lasts forever.
So how do I help on the birth day itself? My doula bag (which is getting smaller and smaller) holds the answers…
Straws, the humble essential for your easy, hands free hydration (or impromtu Britney skits if the moment arises)…I’ll come back to that.
A flannel – to cool.
Massage balls – to relieve, to bang, bang, bang (repetition is very helpful), to squeeeeeze.
Chocolate buttons – who needs a reason?!
A Tens machine – great for early labour, my Mama can deliver her own mini electric shocks to match her pain and the beauty of this is, the power is literally in her hands, battery operated and there’s a boost button, she’s the boss after all.
My fave essential oils: lavender, to calm. Frankincense, to deal with the intensity of the surges (the word contractions just sounds painful doesn’t it?). Clary sage if things slow down (only use in labour, you’ve been warned). And peppermint oil, a few drops in the toilet bowl can help the placenta deliver more smoothly.
A variety of tea bags – obviously a complete essential at any time (I am a herbal tea addict!) and for the first cuppas as a new family because I get to see that, a family being born, privilege and wonder that never, ever gets old.
Iphone – obvs but great if music is forgotten, you can listen, dance, roar to my 80s classics, stick in a cup, and voila!
A book – for waiting, they’ll be no pressure from me to ‘move things along’ (I’m not actually reading but if it looks like I’m not bothered, chances are you’ll relax too), giving a Mama space is as important as knowing when to hold her tight.
My rebozo (a mexican shawl) – for Mama, for baby, for me, to wrap, to comfort, lo act as a makeshift pillow, to hang from the door to change positions or to shake those apples imagine me shimmying with a scarf wrapped around your middle, can really make the surges more manageable.
Fluffy socks – for my Mama’s cold feet, there’s a suggestion that the colder a woman’s legs the more dilated she is, the further up you go, the closer to baby you are…
Wool – in case an impromptu cord tie is needed.
Cash – hospital parking charges, ouch and I know lots of Dads worry about this. There is often a discounted ticket for the maternity ward, so definitely worth checking before you bankrupt your change pot.
Blu tack – it can be very handy as a stress reliever but also excellent at putting up positive affirmations, special photos, anything that helps make the space your own if you’re not at home and to support your visualisation techniques, go to your happy place.
A black marker pen – useful to write notes for the room door – ‘hypnobirthing in progress’, whether it is or not, often means less interruptions and softer voices…
My velvet vagina (c/o the amazing midwife/researcher extraordinaire Sara Wickham www.sarawickham.com) another great visualisation tool, it opens out to 10cm.
Talking of opening, as your surges build a homemade rice sock can bring warm relief (just stick it in the microwave and it stays warm for hours)
Massage oil – i’ll rub anything that hurts, within reason but even then, you’re giving birth ffs!
I bring my stamina which will never waiver, you’re doing all the work, I can at least stand by your side while you do it
And the last item I bring is my ability to be invisible, my doula crush once said to me, doulas should be like wallpaper…this is your show, I am just an honored supporter, I will be there when you need me, and step away when you don’t…this is your moment.
And from the doula who’s holding this bag;
You’ll have my eyes watching over you to protect your space…undisturbed birth is the key to the positive birth door
You’ll have my ears, and I will listen, you are about to give birth, you’re not ill, you are stronger and more in control than you’ve ever been, you’re the boss
And you’ll have a piece of my heart, forever, as I witness in awe, as you become a mother.And back to the straw, it’s the only thing I ever really get out of my bag because my Mamas are Goddesses and I serve them, and…they’ve got this.
Charlotte and I have a lot in common; both copywriters, both have a Woody, both have a name begin with the letter C. Ok, I’m stretching it now. One difference is that I am very fortunate to have two healthy kids. I am absolutely in awe of Mums like Charlotte who cope when, in her words: ‘their babies are broken’.
Here she tells us about her and Woody’s on-going journey:
We first found out there could be a problem at our 12 week appointment.
Our much-waited-for scan, which for once had been going well (we’d miscarried three babies before) suddenly took a turn for the worse. The consultant looked concerned and said: “Sorry, there’s a problem. The baby’s probably either got Down’s Syndrome or a heart condition.” And I hate to admit it, but after crying for what seemed like forever I remember praying desperately that it was his heart. You can fix a heart, I thought. Right? (I now know Down’s Syndrome would’ve also given us a precious, unique baby too. Hindsight is a funny old thing.)
The heart condition was confirmed a few weeks later and then a new feeling crept in. I didn’t want this baby. I wanted a ‘good one’. Why did we have to have the broken one after all the sh*t we’d been through? Seemed unfair. Could we please just start again?
But as the baby grew I became quite protective. It may be broken, but it was mine. Perhaps after all the miscarriages it was the baby I was supposed to have all along.
Nearing Woody’s due date I grew very apprehensive. No one was quite sure how bad his heart was or what would happen once he came out. They knew he had a hole in there but not how big. I often hear pregnant mums say they want to keep their babies safely tucked inside them for a bit longer. I wanted my gestation to last until he was eighteen. I felt complete terror that he’d come out and drop dead the minute he was born.
But he was born, pulled out quickly because I wasn’t allowed to push for too long or risk stressing his heart, and he did really well. Perhaps his heart would be okay. Only time would tell.
So we were packed off home with our tiny newborn and told to ‘look out for signs of heart failure.’ Y’know, ‘blue lips, struggling for breath, death etc…’ Sure, we thought. No problem. We’ll take on that responsibility even though WE’VE HAD ZERO MEDICAL TRAINING AND CAN BARELY WORK OUT HOW TO CHANGE HIS NAPPY YET.
So obviously we ended up in A&E. A LOT. Every sniffle, we were told to take him in ‘just in case’. And each time the doctors would gather round and take it in turns to listen to his ‘crazy heart murmur’. We started to feel like he was pretty special. He drew crowds. But we’d trundle off home still feeling like we were living with a time bomb. Like an exploding nappy, we felt his heart would pack in at any time.
Then they told us after six weeks of watching and waiting that his hole was ‘pretty significant’. So big in fact they weren’t sure ‘why he’s not in complete heart failure’. The consultant’s exacts words.
When you tell people your baby’s got a hole in the heart the number one thing most people say is: ‘Oh that’s very common. So and so has one and they’re okay…’ This is the single worst thing you want to hear.
Herpes is common, I don’t want my baby to have that. This wasn’t a sock that needed darning. This was the very thing that kept him alive. Having a baby with a hole in his heart was pretty damn uncommon for me.
So they decided they would need to fix his heart (plus repair the damaged valve that so far had been keeping him alive.) But not yet. He’s too small for such a big operation. (WHAT DO YOU MEAN BIG OPERATION? CAN’T YOU JUST DO IT THOUGH A KEYHOLE OR SOMETHING? PICK IT LIKE A LOCK? LASER IT FROM THE OUTSIDE??) Nope. Open-heart bypass surgery it had to be.
We had to wait fourteen long months until he was deemed big enough to go through with the surgery. I had counselling in the months leading up to the operation. How could they be stopping my baby’s heart and then starting it again? The thought simply made me want to throw up.
Then the day came. Everything seems quite foggy looking back. I know I cried when I had to sign the consent form and see how likely it was he might die.
I know I whispered to the anaesthetist, “Please…when he’s in there, call him Woody. He won’t know his other name, Elwood.”
I remember my husband and I falling asleep on the grass outside as we waited for it to be over. I guess our bodies’ way of coping, escaping instantly in to sleep.
Seven hours and thirty-two minutes later we could go and see him in intensive care. He was covered in tubes and sliced down the middle. I called out to him, desperate to let him know I was there, but in his drugged-out state he got distressed and they asked us to leave. It was, quite simply, horrendous.
The next day we were allowed back in to the ICU. And there was our boy. Sitting up in bed drinking a bottle of milk looking like he’d been out on one hellova bender. Turns out he’d pulled out his own breathing tubes and stabilised once they’d stopped pumping him full of drugs.
‘You’ve got a fighter there’ I remember the lovely ICU nurse saying.
I look back on that time waiting for him to recover in hospital as strangely blissful. It was over. He was safe. We’d waited for that feeling even before he was born. We promised him we’d take him to get an ice cream the minute he was out. We were desperate to do something ‘normal.’
And normal life did return. Which was weird. After being such a strong unit throughout ‘the op’, my husband and I would bicker over who was doing the laundry. When times are tough, nothing else matters. Now we had to readjust to the usual grind of life.
Three years on and Woody’s doing great. (Touch wood – clearly still paranoid and superstitious and will be forevermore…) We’re due to get his yearly heart-check tomorrow. (There’s a very small chance he might have to have the surgery one day again.) Going back to that place is always tough. Physically on him and mentally on us. But it’s time for us to learn to see him as a normal, robust little boy, and not the delicate little time bomb we had to once hover-over. Easier said than done.
When you have a baby they say the love you feel for them is like having your heart living on the outside of your body. You will worry about them forevermore.
I’m so glad I got a broken baby.
I think it’s my heart that may one day explode.
If you need support coping with a baby with a CHD, do get in touch with tinytickers.org They’re amazing.
Early detection is crucial in survival rates for many CHD babies. Tiny Tickers are training sonographers who will go on to save hundreds of babies’ lives. They desperately need donations to continue their work. You can donate here: tinytickers.org/donate
Blogging is a funny old game. I still cringe introducing myself as a blogger. But then again my brother, who is a musician, feels embarrassed about carrying a guitar about. Maybe it’s the same thing? Or just a classic case of imposter syndrome.
Anyway here’s a list about why I share my ramblings with the world:
I actually had a blog 5 years ago called Lists on the Northern Line. I was in the middle of a terrible phase of anxiety* which meant I had daily panic attacks on the ‘tube part’ of my commute. Writing lists became my distraction/coping mechanism.
Although I enjoyed writing it. I didn’t really have a reason for doing it. So it petered out.
3 years and 2 kids later, in March 2015, Mother of All Lists was born.
Parenting is hard.
It makes you feel as if everyone is having a better, easier time than you.
Parenting can be lonely and relentless. Days can go by without having an adult conversation.
Sustained sleep deprivation fucks you up.
It can strip away your identity.
It messes with your confidence.
Makes you question: how to dress, who your mates are and what you want out of life.
And back when I had Bertie I couldn’t find anyone to help me navigate the madness.
My Mum lives abroad.
My siblings were still firmly in the having fun stage.
And we were the first of our friends to have a kid. So I looked elsewhere for advice, guidance and a sanity check.
Parenting books were too heavy going. (I’m always been the sort of girl who preferred to watch the film/get the study guide rather than read the set text).
Mumsnet was too negative. I saw people sharing their baby name ideas and then being ripped to pieces for their choices.
( I’m of the opinion that if you grow the human, it’s your choice what to call them).
ANYWAY after having Woody, my second, I felt more confident. As if I had graduated from an amateur parent to a competent one.
At which point I thought I’d have a go at sharing some of my experiences:
Doing so cleared my head. It got my baby brain back in gear. And seeing those first 1o’s and 100’s of reads come in gave me a thrill to do it again.
It’s ok to occasionally wear red lipstick to the park just to cling on to a tiny bit of your own identity.
It’s ok to cover puke/wee/snot/vomit with a towel rather than endure more washing.
It’s ok to: use a dummy/co-sleep/cuddle them too much/mix feed/feed them to sleep/ follow a routine/have zero routine. It’s OK TO DO WHAT EVER YOU NEED TO DO TO SURVIVE.
It’s ok to want to be free from your kid but feel too bound to them to allow yourself that freedom.
It’s ok to want to hold on to your career. Doesn’t mean you don’t feel a pang of guilt every Monday.
Equally, it’s ok to want to choose to staying at home. Doesn’t mean you don’t feel a pang of envy on Monday morning.
And it’s ok to crack into the prosecco/gin & tonic on a Friday afternoon whilst doing kids tea. Pizza with an all important carrot sticks on the side to ease your conscience.
Blogging/Instagram has given me the confidence to say all of the above. It’s helped me know who I am.
It has given me an incredible support network. Every time a stranger reaches out to say ‘hope you are ok.’ It blows me away.
Every like, follow, share, comment is not only humbling it’s sanity saving. It’s given me so so many laughs at the disastrous, life-affirming, maddening, hilarious, emotional and often shitty experience of being Mum. So Thank You, Thank You very much for going on this journey with me.
Nicola aka ‘Too Much Mothering Information’ is a fellow Peckham Mum Blogger. She writes brilliantly and often makes me stop and think. Which is saying a lot when your brain is a frazzled mess.
I love so much of her feed. But partly I am curious about her life becuase its the one I haven’t taken. Nicola kids are simialr ages to my two, and after her second, she bravely decided NOT to go back to work in favour of being a stay at home Mum. A decision that can’t have been easy and one I have massive respect for.
Here she tells us how that feels:
My children are two and four. One is at home full-time, the other is in nursery two days a week. I love them fiercely of course, but frequently wonder whether anyone/everyone else finds this existence of servitude as boring/ monotonous/ lonely/ frustrating as I do, or if I’m justdoing it wrong.
Experiences of motherhood are infinite and impossible to capture in one piece of writing -but perhaps you too feel more stuck-than-stay-at-home-mum. Have a read of this and see, because above all else, it’s nice not to feel alone:
You try showering before they get up as suggested by people who are better at life, but the shower wakes them.
You leave the shower running for 37 minutes, trying to get in it while the kids make many varied requests for drinks/ toys/ food/ toothpaste/ soap/ moisturiser. Sometimes you’ll just give up and get dressed. This is annoying.
unload the dishwasher
load the washing machine
make a cup of tea, take a sip
fold dry laundry
attempt to eat your breakfast
donate it to a child
brush their teeth
wipe hands, faces, bums
sweep the floor
wipe the table
load the dishwasher
brush their hair
realise you haven’t brushed your own teeth/ hair
brush teeth, fail to brush hair
wrestle shoes, coats and hats on (hurry up summer)
drop older child at nursery/ school
go to the park
help small child climb stuff
reply “Yes, it’s a bin lorry/ dog/ cat/ leaf/ tree” ad infinitum
wash multiple sets of hands
make a cup of tea, possibly drink it
wipe hands, faces, tables, floors
wrestle resistant limbs into a sleeping bag
bribe a child into their cot
pretend they are asleep
sit on hold to a utility company
make and finally drink a cup of tea
hang out the laundry
put on another load
arrange something House-y
retrieve child from cot
put on coats, shoes, hats
collect other child
retrieve contraband from small hands that bigger hands have donated
wipe faces, hands, tables, floors
load the dishwasher
run the bath
wrangle children into the bathroom
put them in the bath
unload the washing machine
hang out the washing
dry the floor
herd into bed
return escaped children
turn out the light
tidy away toys/ kick them into a corner
sit down to eat
load and start dishwasher
And when your other half says, “What have you done today?” reply, “Nothing really.”
You wish you knew less about the effects of sugar, salt, chemical consumption so you would feel less guilty about the amount of biscuit bribery and beige oven food that is consumed by your kids.
You tell yourself your menu is limited because you prioritise getting out of the house, not staying in and cooking. Deep down you know this is really because being out of the house means less mess.
When your children are going through developmental leaps/ are being arseholes, every day (and possibly night) in their company erodes every vestige of patience you ever had. The (shameful) end result is there may be times that your hands itch. You’re not about to receive money, no one is talking about you, it is just that your child/ren have driven you to the brink of doing something previously unthinkable. You can now see how people who already have “issues” might transform it into the thinkable.
You feel terrible about this. You cry down the phone to your partner/ husband/ friend begging them to say you’re not a terrible person, but not too much because you fearexcusing this behaviour might make “it” easier next time.
You fantasise about going to work and not having to listen to the tantrums and whining.
You fantasise about going to work and earning your own money so you can justify another mama-merch slogan tee. (You conveniently forget that after childcare costs you’ll be left with approximately £3.47 a day from your wages.)
You resent your partner having the freedom to phone you halfway through bathtime to say they won’t be home for bathtime as they’re meeting clients (you suspect friends) after work, during bathtime. “No shit” you might bite back. You reflect that your last night out involved weeks of planning who will be where and when to catch the slack you’d be letting fall, only for it to unravel on the actual night so you arrive two hours late when everyone else has gone home/ is pissed.
You torment yourself with memories of a time when you were respected, had authority that was listened too, and expertise that was valued.
You spend time wishing your washing machine had a timer that allowed you to set the start time/ told you how long was left.
You spend more time wishing you didn’t wish this.
But then the kids are asleep, you don those digital pink-hued goggles of modern motherhood, scroll through pics of your kids surrounded by scattered Cheerios and forget the frustration you felt at the time.You declare them “so cute it hurts” and reflect on all the reasons you’re actually happy to be a stuck-at-home-mum:
There is no rush out of the house in the morning, juggling nursery drop-offs with sleepy children followed by the hurtle to work that always ends in being five minutes late.
There are no guilty apologies as you leave other people in the office. You need to get to nursery before they start fining you and leaving you in deficit for the day, thus unable to guilt-free buy that slogan tee anyway.
There are no adults tantruming and whining. Those arseholes tend not to respond well to KitKat bribery.
There is less anxiety about whether the kids will sleep tonight – when the most intellectually challenging task of the day is timing the pasta, broken sleep is annoying rather than a threat to survival.
You get to see your kid drawing hair on a stick person for the first time; listen to them struggle with a word on Monday, that by Saturday is perfect; not have that horrible sinking feeling when you notice something for the first time, that someone else has known for days or even weeks.
You get to take them on day trips, on bus journeys one way and then back again on arainy day, and teach them to ride their bike. All on a week day, without the crowds, enjoying the look of ecstasy on their faces.
You get to laugh and smile so hard your face aches. Almost every day, sometimes several times a day.
You get to relish being rejected at the weekend – the least present parent is generally more interesting.
Truth is, stuck-at-home-mums like me didn’t have this life in their vision of the future so wefind it difficult to accept and embrace. But, in a never-ending cycle, when the day is over its easier to see the upsides, appreciate the gains, and reflect on the fact it’s not, afterall, forever.
In advertising only 3% of Creative Directors are female. The number of those that are Mums is far far less. I don’t have a stat but its definitely on the shit side of depressing.Imagine my joy when I met Sue Higgs. A fan of leopard print (good start) a CD and a Mum to teenagers. And really funny with it. She was a ray of light and living a proof that being a Mum and a Creative was possible.
I’m so deeply focused on surviving this stage of parenting/jugglign that I hadn’t stopped to think about what is to come; what it might be like when they are TEENAGERS!! Here Sue gives us a glimpse into our future:
I was lucky to work with the lovely Clemmie for a few months at Grey before she left for exciting pastures new, good luck you’ll smash it!! But in our short time together, I’d come in in the morning usually with a moan/ gripe/anecdote about something my children had done. I say children. I mean teens two girls 17 and 15, a boy of 12.
I think I was more prepared for the baby than the teen, holy mother, one minute you’re making sand castles and pureeing veg the next you’re advising them not to drink white wine and stick to a spirit. So I’m slightly ahead most of yous.
I’m also a single mum, who works full time as a creative director so it’s all pretty full on in our house … *emoji scream face.
Here’s where I got to…
Starting on a good bit, you can leave the house without looking as if you’re going on holiday for 2 weeks, and without having to book a babysitter. That is a lovely big change.
I’ve learned to understand what it must be like to be a PA to a celebrity. Could you just order me this?, Oo I need this.. tomorrow? Has my xx come? Have you booked my y? I really need a new xx etc etc
Teens are selfish and don’t do stuff unless they’ve done it. “I didn’t leave that towel, it wasn’t my mug…” So it’s more like living with flatmates than kids. I’ve tried spreadsheets, withholding pocket money and screaming at the top of my voice about not being a servant. Not cracked this yet. It’s all normal and part of their development allegedly. Gin helps.
Teens bankrupt you. Its all about the uber. If I’d had 1p for every time I’ve been asked to put money in their account for an uber I’d have at least £200. Then there’s the festivals. The clothes. Someone at school will always get more pocket money than them.
I really turned have into my mum, “ You can’t go out wearing that! ‘’There’s barely enough fabric in that top for me to blow my nose on let alone cover your body” “Take a coat” “Don’t loose anything”, “ Be back by 11”, “This music is just noise etc ” Repeat ad finitum.
They look at photos of you when you were young and say stuff like “you used to be so pretty”. Used.
When they all go to a party, and there’s always a party or “ gathering”, they all drink bottles of Sprite, it’s 95% vodka.
The words “ literally” and “ basically’ are the cornerstones of every sentence.
The years of diligently Anabel Karmelling, pureeing and vegetable hiding have transmogrified into Nando lust.
You can’t buy clothes for a teen. I stopped when they girls were about 12. It will be wrong. They looked at my last offering as if I was handing them a suit made of hair.
Peng. Buff. Henge. Streak. Just some of the words I hear and ask “What the hey are you’re going on about? ” “Oh mum they reply, they probably didn’t have those words in your day, was everything in black and white? ”Cue me walking off muttering some four letter words of my own.
In the teen years, I think you really find out what kind of a person you are. How did I get so shouty/strict/moral/relaxed etc
Having said all this I wouldn’t swap it for the world. I think parenting is a bunch of phases thrown together and we’re all just muddling our way through trying not to f*** it up!!
The biggest clue that I may be doing ok came one day when my eldest was recounting a tale of another mum’s “ terribly strict” treatment of her friend, which concluded in her saying: