You’ve reached your limit. You’re done. No more co-sleeping/hushing/feeding to sleep. You’ve had enough of the endless stories, lullabies, back rubbing and then the ballerina gymnastics needed to extricate without waking. You are a grown up. They are a child. You need a plan and a united front.
No Cry Sleep Solution. Super-Nanny. Sleep trainers. The NCT What’s App group chat is alive with suggestions. You’ve done the jasmine and lavender bath salts. The calming bedtime. You’ve feng shui’d the crap out of the bedroom. You are ready.
Whatever route you take, you’re gonna count. Minutes. Returns to bed. Phases of the moon. Whichever. You’ll be counting.
Considering they tick a lot of the psychopath boxes (self-absorbed, risk takers, ruthless, lack of empathy), kids are master manipulators. Mine have demonstrated the full range of tactics to get me to buckle at bedtime: disbelief, humour, heartstrings, outrage, hurt. Each turn is always a sucker punch to the guilt gut and each blow is artfully crafted for maximum effect- ie, let them downstairs for ‘just one more PJ Masks’
You will suffer lower back pain from hoiking 20 kilos of child back in to bed 87 times. You will suffer stress headaches. You may stub your foot as you hover by the door. The stakes are high.
There will be a moment in sleep training where you nearly nearly break. A poorly-times Amazon delivery. A screeching neighbourhood cat. A motorbike. A jaunty ice cream van. Any of these may send you spiralling back to square one.
You will nearly break-you may well indeed submit, fair play to you- but you may also summon up deep reserves of determination and press on. It’s like labour- at its peak worst just before it delivers.
You’ve won! You know you shouldn’t think of it as winning! But you won! The bugger’s asleep! You did it!
You have to do it again tomorrow. But it’ll probably be better tomorrow night. Right?
A few weeks ago I was in an important meeting at work. It had lasted longer than I thought so I had to excuse myself. I gave my apologies and left. This week I turned down extra hours- citing that it wouldn’t be financially worth it for me. Next week I have been asked to work at a time I wouldn’t normally be in. I have agreed to it but I have asked to be paid to be there.
And the reason each time? Childcare. That’s the reason I can’t stay at meetings, work longer hours, afford to pick up more work or just ‘pop in’ for an hour or two. Because every time I’m away from my children, it costs me money. That’s the bones of it.
So when Kelly Brook said that working mums are less professional it stung because I live in endless fear that she’s right.
Am I ‘using my kids as an excuse not to do my job properly’ as KB suggests women do? (She described ‘women’ doing this by the way, not parents).
I am not someone who likes bringing kids in to the work place. It doesn’t sit right with me because I compartmentalise. I also don’t really like talking about my children at work. Mostly because I am aware that hearing about other people’s kids is like hearing about other people’s dreams- at best, dull, at worst deeply revealing about a person’s psyche.
Whenever I have to say ‘I can’t because of the children’ a little bit of me cringes. So I try and say ‘I can’t’ instead. And I’ll be that’s what Brook’s co-workers who ‘have kids and you never hear about the kids’ are doing too. We leave it unsaid. We know that our male partners aren’t saying ‘ohbutIneedtogetbacktothekidsbecauseitsswimminglessonstonightsorrysorrysorry’ and ducking out of meetings in a fluster. And it’s no one’s fault. Other than a society that makes women feel like they need to apologise and excuse and validate decisions.
I don’t think ‘sorry’ should be another thing that women are told ‘not to do’. I don’t think citing childcare as a reason they can’t do something should be another thing ‘not to do’ but I would say, just saying ‘no’ is really empowering. Just saying ‘I have to be somewhere else’ is fine. And, if someone’s invited you to join an intellectual book club or a PTA meeting or a fancy dress night then sometimes it is marvellously handy to be able to say ‘Ooh I’d love to but I’m delousing the kids’. #sorrynotsorry, Kelly.
Oddly, our kid-free trip to the Bravarian city of Munich started with us hitchhiking and wheeling in circles around the good-hearted village of Birchanger- possibly the most patient and friendly village in Essex. This article is dedicated to you, Birchanger, without your kindness we never would’ve made our flight.
After that dramatic start, we managed to get to our hotel just in time to meet our friends and celebrate the last hour of their birthday with the (first of many) beers of the holiday. Out for a kebab. Back for bed.
Up and out! We always like to start with a bike tour because it gives us the lay of the land and cycling around a European city is one of life’s joys. We went with Mike’s Bikes who meet by Juliet statue in the main square.
We mooched along in our group admiring cathedrals, statues and acres and acres of beautiful parkland. The definite peak being stopping for lunch at the centre of the park where they serve litre glasses of beer and piles and piles of pork (knuckle, sausage, schnitzel).
The city is so geared up for beer and bikes they even have a drink called a ‘raddler’ which is basically a shandy -the idea being it’s less potent so you can wibble home on your bike more easily. Our group then went back through the park via the river. It’s so powerful no one swims in it- but they do surf it. The water gushes through at such a pace that it creates waves that can be surfed on. Which I obviously did.
Our bike tour ended after five fab hours. Where next? A museum? An art gallery? Or perhaps nip to central market which has a…guess?…beer market in the centre! Man, I love this city!
Many litres of beer later we go back to our hotel for a freshen up and a posh frock because we are off to a rooftop bar in a snazzpants hotel. And YIKES was it snazzy. Marble everything. Gold everything else. Munich is a rich city (I’ve never seen so Maseratis) but I think we found its epicentre. Cocktails were €10 a pop but the view was fabulous.
As were the bogs.
We were meant to be going to a restaurant someone had recommended- we’d booked a taxi and everything but thought we’d ‘just check’ the prices. A main course was €40. Nope. We went for a whopping pizza round the corner. The whole bill was €40 and we were stuffed. And sloshed.
My plan was for us to go and mooch in the boutiques and cool cafes of Schwabing, the university area. We could drink cocktails out of jamjars and act superior. Alas, no one warned us that Munich is a ghost town on Sundays. Nothing was open. Other than museums. So we had a beer for breakfast and dived in to Residenz Museum. Now, call me uncultured but once you’ve seen one velvet-walled, golden-furnished meeting chamber, you don’t need to see another 80. So we pounded through half a dozen and headed to a beer keller. We went to Hofbraeuhaus which is vast and just long tables of people drinking mammoth glasses of beer. Quite proud that this is the only pic I have of me- testament to my drinking dedication.
We then spent the next nine hours drinking beer and eating pork knuckle. We went to Haxenbauer and the knuckle and dumpling and sauerkraut was friggin delish.
Our flight wasn’t until the evening so we packed a picnic and headed to Englischer Garten. 900 acres of parkland with the river running through it. Our bike guide said the park is the city’s garden and everyone was out enjoying it. Including some nudists. We ate and cycled. We said goodbye to our friends who were on a lunchtime flight. We circled and cycled and explored the city. We ducked and dived through suburbs and centres. The more we cycled, the more I fell in love with this city. I love that they’ve made a beach by the river in the centre of town. I love that they have a glorified cuckoo clock in their city square. I love that you’re never more than a freewheel from a beer garden. I love that the city is dotted with parks. I love the statues and water fountains and the fact that you can buy excellent schnitzel whatever the time of day.
And now I’m home and all the beer and the pork are out of my system, I’m telling everyone I meet -including you- that they have to go to Munich. I’m telling you about it and yet you’re not packing your bag? Come on. Forget work tomorrow. Forget you’re a vegetarian. Book those flights and let Munich work its magic on you.