Love in a Time of Child Rearing

You may well be raising children alongside someone you used to love wildly and recklessly. Perhaps you and that person once backpacked through Borneo together or sailed Greek islands or spoon fed each other gelato in Italian cities.

But that’s love then.

Love in a time of childrearing can look a little different. Other things now set your heart alight.

A Lie In

A true beloved might slip out of bed at the first chorus of ‘Mummy!’ and scoop them downstairs whilst you sleep on. You might stir at past 8am and come downstairs feeling like a new person. That’s the stuff that gives tingles under your pjs.

Odd Jobs

Perhaps they’ve topped up your windscreen wash. Perhaps they’ve remembered to pick up milk. Perhaps they’ve renewed the house insurance. These small acts of kindness may well give you sexy thoughts.

Shared Memories

The private jokes. The snigger triggers. The family malapropisms. The ‘do you remember’ whens. That’s glue. That’s love. That’s the chocolates on the pillow.

Stolen Moments

A beer and a snog in the garden. A quick pint whilst the in-laws babysit. A cinema trip. A tiptoe in to the bedrooms of your sleeping children and a high five shared for making such little crackerjacks. That sets the pulse racing.

It may not be red roses and candle lit suppers and the first dizzying flashes of lust but romance can live on- it just looks a little different.

Punting in Venice becomes Puttering on Canals

90s vs Now

From MSN Chat to SnapChat: how to feel nostalgic for a really pretty naff decade.

I was on break duty recently when I heard a student singing the opening rap of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. They said they’d been watching it on Netflix. Apparently this can no longer be used as a benchmark for a ’90s childhood so I need to regroup and reassess. Here is my new collection of ’90s tells.

Bloody Netflix- coming here and ruining our cultural references.

You know all the words to Everything I Do I Do It For You

My sister had it on tape. Knowing what a tape is will also be sign.

Can be interchanged with Love is All Around

Now if you like someone you send them a naked selfie. Then you used to make them a friendship bracelet.

And even that was pretty forward.

All teens knew how to make these. Photo credit: Siesta Crafts

Now, you have pencilled on eyebrows and a full set of contouring for a school day. Then, you had a fruity lip balm and two sassy bits of hair pulled out the front of your ponytail.

And instead of a Beyoncé endorsed perfume, you had Body Shop White Musk.

Your hair stuck to it and you kept it in your pencil case

Now, the sounds of youth are tinny RnB played over a phone and the chimes of notifications. Then, it was bing-bing-whistle of dial up.

And the landline ringing and you pounding up the stairs shouting ‘I’ll get it!’

These were savage high tech

Now you need an app and a therapist to be on it. Then, you needed a folder with a bucket tonne of plastic wallets.

Made you feel good.

Notes: writers’ own

Now role models are shouty YouTubers and billionaire brunettes. Then, you wanted to cool of Claire Danes circa My So Called Life

And the boobs of Sally from Neighbours

Boob idol Photocredit: tuans.info

Then you could coast school, get ‘political’ about animal testing and drink through uni and know you’ll be able to afford a house. Now, you’re the first generation to be worse off than your parents and get angry about Brexit and austerity.

And now I get why Netflix have bought back Fresh Prince: sometimes you need a reminder of simpler times.

Now they will but they’ll have other things to be mad about

End of Term-itis

It should be the most marvellous time of the year with the long summer stretching promisingly ahead. Dreams of poolside reading and swing seats in the sunshine and dappled bbq evenings. And yet.

Admin

As a teacher and a mother of a school child, school administration seems to ratchet up: reports, letters, reply slips, trips, reminders, data collection, spreadsheets. Feel like there should’ve been a loophole in the new GDPR where I could just sign on one dotted line to give the nod for all permissions ever.

My dream filing system.

Sports

Sports day. PE kits. Lost trainers. Plimsolls that are too small. Egg and spoon anxiety.

Social events

School discos and outfit panics for the sub-10s. Work nights out and babysitting/taxi/finance panics for the plus 30s. And why do they all have to be on the same night?

I could go out or I could just…. IMAGE: @acheybreakyheartzine

Realisation

Six weeks. Yeesh. That’s a lot, right? Six weeks? With both kids? At home? On my own? I wonder what the grandparents are up to…?

Dream: long country walks and family bonding

Reality: sitting in parks swatting at thunderbugs

Also realisation

Six weeks? To bask in long nights? To just get in the car and go somewhere for a few days? To spend all morning in our pyjamas and watch Paddington even though it’s sunny out? Six weeks to just sniff their hair and work on their sock tan lines? Six weeks. See you on the other side.

Sometimes it’s ace to be a parent

I am pretty sure I don’t say it enough, but I love my kids. Like, really really love them.

Sometimes I can feel them pulling away from me. William no longer thinks my kisses cure his hurts. Alex sighs like a teenager: ‘ooooh kaaaay mummy’. The only time they hold my hand is when we cross a road. And I keep holding them. Until they realise and slip from my grasp and run ahead.

And now I’m reduced to sneaking in to their rooms at night and watching their sweaty faces. And sniffing their sour scent and kissing their damp summer faces.

I really, really love my children: their sock marks, their grazed knees, their unreasonable bedtime requests, their secrets, their private jokes, their suncream sticky limbs.

And they say they love me too. And I know they do. But they won’t know how much I love them until they have children themselves. And then they’ll know. They’ll know how terrifyingly and fiercely they were loved by me.

Things You Must Do at the Beach

Choose

Walk along the beach. Choose a spot. Get to it. Decide it’s not right. Walk along the beach more.

‘Here will do…Or there?’

Set up camp

If you’re winning, you may have a windbreaker.

Winner.

Dig Something

Grab a spade. Dig a hole. Always.

Diggin’

Climb something

Hopefully something that will give your parents heart-palpitations

‘OhGodWheresAlexHaveYouSeenAlex?’

Build Something

A sand car. A tunnel. A castle.

You will need ‘just the right type of sand’

Try the Water

Have ‘a quick paddle’ just to ‘check the temp’. It’s going to be burningly cold.

Needn’t have optimistically packed my swimmers

Feel the sun on your face

Glorious.

‘This is what it’s all about. Sighhhh’

Feel the Sand on Your Face

‘I’ve already said, STOP FLICKING SAND’

‘Oh god, it’s in my eye!’

Home Time

Kids have loved it but there’s sand in your pants and everyone’s looking pretty windburnt. Plus, sea air is exhausting. Chalk up the win and head home.

8 Stages of Sleep Training

Crisis Summit

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.

Research

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.

Counting

Whatever route you take, you’re gonna count. Minutes. Returns to bed. Phases of the moon. Whichever. You’ll be counting.

Emotional Turmoil

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’

Pain

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.

Breaking Point

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.

Success

You’ve won! You know you shouldn’t think of it as winning! But you won! The bugger’s asleep! You did it!

Realisation

You have to do it again tomorrow. But it’ll probably be better tomorrow night. Right?

Working Mums are Less Professional

apolgies 2 final
Photo credit: The Pool/REX Features

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.

apologise
Photo Credit: Emily Flake