Tuesday, 28 June 2011

What gives?

Sproglette is howling like someone is murdering her, Sproglet is talking at 16 to the dozen, I'm covered in rusk, mushed banana and barely able to think straight and the clock says 7:02. Is your life like this? A groundhog day of stacking/unstacking the dishwasher, reloading and emptying the washing machine machine/dryer, folding mountains of clothes, boiling up veggie mush, wiping arses, jingling toys, cooing, bribing, stressing, tidying, tidying, tidying, stepping on small hard plastic toys that almost remove a toe and folding enough laundry to fill an Oxfam store???

I watch as Husband disappears to work and I envy him. He gets to mix with adults. Chat. Wee in peace. I knew it would be like this - I have been here before - but it doesn't make it any easier at times. Yet the thought of giving Sproglette over to a stranger makes me feel sick. I didn't feel like this with Sproglet - I would have handed him to anyone, I was so overwhelmed by motherhood first time round. Looking back I reckon I had post natal depression from the off - which I hid for fear of looking a failure. It took almost 18 months before I asked for help - as in, anti-depressant help. Now, I'm not depressed - in fact I'm pretty happy - but my god, I am knackered. My life feels like a whirl of getting everyone dressed and ready for the day, followed by getting my house ready for well - something - then getting everyone undressed and bathed and then staging a mini collapse on the sofa. Followed by a brief period of sleep and then it all starts again.

If I didn't have my nespresso machine, thrice weekly runs, my friend K for a gossip and my friend E for a weekly dinner, I think my head would explode. The other day Sproglet announced to me (when I asked him to pick up crayons he had spilled everywhere) 'I do EVERYTHING - why do I have to do it all?' !!!!!! I nearly threw him out a window. I explained calmly that in fact I did it all - and in that moment I realised how I get about 5 mins a day to myself if I am lucky. How little I actually do for myself. Like read. Watch tv. Mooch. I long to mooch. Sproglette has started to sleep longer (bless you solids - mind you the nappies equal out the horror at the other end) which means that although unpredictable - I can get stuff done. By stuff I don't mean a pedicure, a stroll round Covent Garden or anything of note - I mean I get to do more of the groundhog stuff. Phoning the bank, sending an ebay sale, buying endless gifts for some kid's party or other. Reminding myself we need a new chese grater. Exciting, earth shattering stuff like that.

Now if I return to work - in whatever form that is (I actually have my plan all worked out, but I'll keep it to myself for the mo) how will house maintain it's aura of cleanliness, Sproglet attend tennis on a Tues, swimming on a Fri - in the correct kits (which is important I reckon - googles on court won't help him a jot) - and we have a full fridge and enough clean pants? How do women work full time and juggle a house/laundry/husband/fridge etc? Every week I plan out our meals and it is the dullest, hardest quiz I have ever taken. What will Sproglet eat? What is healthy for me? His mate who eats fish fingers and sausages only, comes every Monday - so I guess that is fish fingers for tea - again. I feel like a genius when I have completed it. I was clearly born to be rich. Something went wrong somewhere. I am sure I was meant to have a housekeeper/nanny on tap. Oh my god, the thought of someone else doing my laundry just about gave me an orgasm... I should have married some banker wanker and had affairs with cute embryonic boys on the side... Anyway, what gives? Something has to give surely - we can't all hold down successful jobs, run a perfect house, raise polite snot-free kids and find time to tone our asses and made organic jam??? Maybe we have to sacrifice our asses, or tidy houses, or maybe we just forget people's birthdays and only have a fridge with rotting veggies in it. Who knows, but if anyone has any secrets on how to make this all go more smoothly - do share. Go on, please.

Meanwhile - something terribly exciting has happened. If you look over to the right you will notice I have an advert - for a fab company called Vacuum World. Check it out. My first advertisers. A landmark moment in the life of CM. Internet moguldom here I come! Better dash - got a child to throw an un-ironed school uniform onto. As a woman once said to me at his (then) nursery when I said I would be cutting his hair, 'Oh no - Sproglet wouldn't be Sproglet, if he wasn't a scruffbag.'

Brilliant. With me, ironing is what gives. Obviously.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Fashion feminism and Dr Seuss (of course).

When Caitlin Moran (award winning journo, mother of two, all round good egg), who has just written a book called 'How to be a Woman' was asked :

'Is there one thing, totemic above all others, that you would regard as an indication that feminism is succeeding? What is it?

She replied :
'When a woman goes up to collect the Oscar for Best Actress in shoes that aren’t killing her. Nicole Kidman in flip-flops. That’s my end-point.'

Pretty interesting that she chose a fashion moment to sum up her entire philosophy on feminism. I haven't as yet read the book, although am dying to. In reviews I have read, Moran removes feminism from it's dusty high brow shelf filled with confusing allegories and analogies and plonks it amongst us pop-culture hoovers. She speaks in our language about subjects that we can relate to: poor beginnings, the pointlessness of brazilian waxes, why women can't just be nice to one another and why there is so much pressure for us all to sprog? She queries the entire system that women's self esteem is built upon, stating in an interview to publicise her book:

"But also if women just turned around and were honest and said I don’t give a shit, I’m not playing – I don’t care what Angelina Jolie was wearing this week, I haven’t got time to pamper myself, I don’t care if I’ve got blackheads, I don’t care if my arse is a bit spongy, I have not got time for you, you ridiculous capitalist construct, then the whole game would be fucked overnight."

Thank the lord. When on earth did we start putting all this pressure upon ourselves to be a size 0, hairless, toned within an inch of lives, hiding our pregnancies (a la Beckham) all the while pining after a pair of Louboutin shoes that frankly wouldn't be out of place on a 6ft trannie?

Before I get Moran's book, I will simply have to use the wisdom of Dr Seuss for my life lessons. Get this - his book ' The Sneetches'.

Now in it - there are Sneetches with stars on the bellies and because of these stars they think they are better than the other star-less sneetches. They have nothing to do with the plain bellied kind and feel superior - leaving the others out in the cold. Then one day a stranger arrives in town and he has a special machine that can give the star-less sneetches the elusive stars on their bellies. Well they are delighted and throw their cash at him so they can be like the superior sneetches and proudly display their star bellies, hollering that they are now the same!

Well, the original star bellied sneetches HATE this. The stranger - Mr McBean, offers them his machine - to take OFF their stars - so they can be cool and superior again and know who is who. He says that stars are no longer in style and helps them in their star removal. They throw their cash at him and then strut around - delighted to be star free - and they declare they are still the best sneetches around. The star bellies are now horrified and are desperate to become the same as the grander sneetches so they too pay Mc Bean - again - and get their stars removed... then, you can guess, it gets very messy.

Stars on, stars off, in, out, in, out. Changing stars every few minutes until no one knows who is who or was ever star/non star. But when every last cent has been spent - McBean loads up and runs off into the sunset laughing all the way to the bank. The sneetches finally realise they are ALL sneetches, no matter what they have on their tums and from that day on they all hang out together.

This tale reminds me of the fashion industry - telling us 'this is cool - no wait, THIS is now not cool. Now cool! In, Out! Get it! Be like Alexa! Wear what Beckham wears! Or Gwyneth!! Be a sheep! Follow! Spend spend spend!' The joke is on us. As we covet more and more to further prove our status and feed our material egos - the fashion houses get richer and we get more desperate. The effect has trickled down to the high street and beyond, to the supermarkets - as I read recently how stores that used to have 2 collections of clothes a year - now have 8. As fashion rages, the demand to keep with trends means we require more clothes/styles more frequently - and to meet this need - a need we are sold - clothes are being mass produced in sweat shops in third world countries not only abusing the workers who have to create them, but the environment that uses masses of water/energy to create these disposable wardrobes.

When did we become star bellied Sneetches? It reminds me slightly of people who think themselves ethically sound, energy saving green freaks and yet they think nothing of sniffing a wrap on a weekend. They cannot equate their drug taking to the trafficking of women or arms. What difference are they making with their little Friday night buzz? They don't stop to think of the consequences their actions are having further down the white line...

But I digress - not unusual for me I know. This isn't about a greener world. This is about feminism and who we are pressurised to be in today's society. I wish I could go and be a feminist with Moran in the pub. I doubt I'd be leaving sober. But maybe I'd have ditched my heels in the loos... My daughter may only be 7 months - but I'll be saving her a copy for her teen years. When I will urge her to think for herself. Ditch her inner Sneetch and tread her own path.

In flats of course. Moran I salute you.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Sleeping like a baby

Here's the thing - I think parents are responsible for whether or not their children are good sleepers. Maybe on a very rare occasion a child will just be a early riser no matter what a desperate parent tries - but on the whole I think from day 1 you carve out the kind of sleeper your baby is going to be.

Why do I think this? Well, Sproglet slept for Britain. By 12 weeks he slept from 11- roughly 7am and kicked his 11pm feed at 4.5 months when he started to wean. He regularly slept until 9:30am (I remember one particular bitter friend staying at my house declaring that if I ever had another child it would be a 'screamer who never slept' for sure - when she rose at 9:25am and discovered Sproglet was still slumbering) and on one occasion after we had been to a wedding he woke at 11:30am. Bless him. I actually read over this blog and found myself complaining that he woke at 8:30am one morning after I attended a hen do - which makes me want to go back in time and slap myself, as now-a-days he bounds out of bed at 7:30, occasionally 8am. He goes down between 7:45 - 8pm every night after his clockwork like routine of bath/shower time and two stories...

So I figured that I just got lucky with Sproglet and it was with much fear that I sprogged Sproglette - as I am someone who is quite simply insane, if I don't get my 7-8 hours nightly. I am grumpy, irritable, weepy - like PMS on acid, if I don't spend long enough with the sandman. What if she was a bad sleeper as folk predicted?
Sproglette has a bottle now at about 10:45pm (having hit the hay before 7pm) and then sleeps until 7/7:30am every day... As she begins to wean she is sleeping longer and will soon kick her 10:30pm feed I am sure. My dear friend who has had twins threatened to ship me in, so convinced was she of my baby whispering skills in the sleep department.

But I don't think it is any special skill - I think it is down to 3 things:

1. I practised controlled crying - with my son in particular, my daughter didn't really need it. That meant if they were fed, changed, warm enough, cool enough, not in pain and basically just fighting sleep - I let them cry - going in to rub their tummies and soothe them every ten mins - but crucially not picking them up. They fought, they gave in, they slept.

2. I woke both my kids for feeds no matter what. So they got into a routine of eating and dream feeding from day 1. I also didn't breast feed for long, although I did express - and as bad as this sounds, this proved good in that the heavy dense formula made them gain weight and sleep like, well, babies. They didn't wake endlessly feeding, ravenous all through the night. I admire breast feeding women more than anyone - as it is so exhausting and relentless that it takes an amazing woman to do so. I hated it, maybe because my chest was so enormous both babies struggled to latch on and rejected one breast entirely. Expressing was a good alternative until it became too time consuming - but that whole breast debate is for another post - and anyway - my theory is 'what works for you - do it. A happy Mum is a happy baby - end of.'

3. I established a routine with feeding as soon as possible. Even if nap time went a bit haywire depending on the day's activities/car journeys etc, the feeding remained the same time daily. They got in their grooves. A book called 'the baby whisperer' helped when I had Sproglet, but as for Sproglette - I just kinda did what I had done before - and wrote most stuff down for the first 6 weeks (as she had reflux I needed to work out what she had eaten etc.). That made me remember what was what when I couldn't even remember my name.

All those parents who couldn't bear to hear their babies cry and insisted on picking them up - making an already tired and fretful baby even more so - made their own beds. The kids knew which buttons to press and just kept on pressing them. You get the sleeper you deserve in a way. Obviously kids teeth and have wind and all kinds of things can disrupt their sleep - buy by and large I think if parents got a bit tougher, their lives would be much easier. Giving in to a child's every whim teaches them a lesson early that they are in control - when it should be the other way around.

I'm far from smug by the way. I make enough mistakes as a parent on a daily basis to know that I am Crummy Mummy for many reasons. A quick read of Gwynnie's new cookery book about how her kids love brussel sprouts and kale and all things organic and healthy makes me feel like a shit Mum when fish fingers and oven chips feature once a week in our house... But the sleeping thang - I have down. I worked hard at it and it took a lot of biting down on something to keep from picking up a squealing baby. But the results are worth it. And whilst my daughter is uber feisty, a mini diva and the most strong willed bundle I have encountered, she is no screamer who doesn't sleep. And that, I can cope with.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Minus one

I lost a follower today. What does that mean? Did my last post about internet dating offend? I need another follower. You see then there are 50 of y'all who tune in and that is nice round number. So if you know someone who wants to be a following the musings of a demented, conflicted, excitable mother of two, then please, spread the word. I can't offer any great prize, or words of wisdom - but it'll make my day. It will. In a day that has seen me wander round a supermarket carpark convinced my motor had been stolen when in fact it was there all along - I am just a loon; a day when I bought my Dad a Father's Day card, even though I sent him a letter last week and he hasn't called/responded at all; (Maybe that is it for him and I... who knows? I feel better that I wrote it though - and that is the main thing); a day when I had to step away from my Nespresso machine after too much cawfee and froth; a day when I bought untold amounts of junk for the sin that is 'party bags' (just on that subject - kids, you come to a party, you get entertained, fed all sorts of lovely stuff, run around like crazy, get balloons and cakes and prizes and then at the end you expect a gift - just for coming to get all that fun??? Party bags - there in one item is everything that is wrong with the world, I tell you) and cake and candles - as this weekend is Sproglet's 5th b'day and we are taking 9 kids to see Kung Fu Panda 2 IN 3D. Oh yes. The 3D part cost us an extra few quid per kid. For some paper glasses and a fat panda bouncing out at us...; a day in which I watched an ep of In Treatment (so brilliant - if you haven't seen it - buy that box set and enjoy, what writing... what writing...) while I folded an entire chinese laundry's worth of clothing; a day pretty much like any other.

Apart from losing a follower that is.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Girl seeks boy

This dating malarkey aint half hard is it? Not that of course I am playing the field again. Sadly not. Or rather, happily not. The other night I spent the evening vicariously living through a good friend of mine, sifting through the oceans of men out there who have bitten the bullet and decided to give on-line dating a whirl.

As we began our trawl I was excited - some of the blokes were surprisingly hot. Hot and funny too. Where were they all hiding when I scoured London in my twenties, having more dates from hell than Brigit Jones in all 3 books? However, after a couple of hours, my enthusiasm began to wane as a pattern emerged: most men mentioned how odd it was to have to list their qualities but then seemed to do so with ease - who describes themselves as 'a nice guy' and 'kind' and 'good looking'?? All made some dodgy joke about having their own teeth, flat and car - still assuming that women want more cash than dash. They had to give themselves a name - no easy task I grant you - but 'Bass playing veg grower,''Anarchy,' 'Man trapped inside a man's body,' 'LookingLuke' and my favourite 'reeranter' (really??? rear entry... you are so going to score with the ladies with that opening gambit) - are these the best you could come up with lads?

Whilst we could all endlessly drone on about ourselves at parties, it isn't so easy in the cold light of the internet but lines like: 'I enjoy mental acrobatics and verbal pyrotechnics' or 'If you want a serious and funny, certainly not to dumb guy (scientist in the end...)' (replete with spelling mistakes) made me realise why they are in fact on a dating site. One guy - trendy type - wrote the below paragraph: 'I am an interesting date. I have performed at Glastonbury, both when open to the public and not. I have been on TOTP. I have been on Radio 1,2, and 6. I have done voice work for television and ...' Did he confuse the website for the jobs page perhaps, so keen was he to spout forth his CV?

As we sank further into our bottle of wine the bad jokes just kept a comin': '6"1 with a great smile and a body like Beckham… it's not surprising my mate is happily married then is it? As you can tell, I don't take myself too seriously and love to share fun, laughter ...' Boom Tish! I'm here all week, try the chicken...

Obviously my mate K and I poured over the photos to begin with - something in his eyes or smile or stubble has to attract you enough to read on - but faced with the below paragraph from Mr 'I'm handy at everything' - it made me want to just want to throw the laptop out the window:
'I'm a bright, active, pretty capable, professional guy. I stay healthy, work hard, love eating and have a magical ability to stay in shape. Some things I do... I run half marathons and I play competitive tennis. I used to row but ditched it for cycling, I got the bug when I rode up Mont Ventoux after a wedding and found that I was quite handy at it. The hills and river around Henley are great places to cycle, run and walk. I started snowboarding a few years ago, got quite good at that, can't wait to go again in January.I think it's really important to keep learning, be open to new ideas and never get too bogged down in what you're doing.
Is there anything he isn't 'handy' at?

By the time the tag lines read 'mega fauna seeks beautiful flora' and (*wretches*) '*Special Offer* - Get one cuddle - get one free' it was time to call it a night. There was me thinking internet dating was a breeze. Time consuming, head screwing and utterly devastating (when you don't get a reply from 'AnotherMatt')- isn't it just easier to go to a dodgy club and flirt like your life depended on it? Even with the barman - which come to think of it, is how I met my Husband... I admire anyone for having a crack at finding love on line, (we even discovered a rock star had signed up and had carefully avoided mentioning the fact he is famous) but since Husband told me he knows two guys that go online simply to find women to shag - rather than looking for ever lasting love - I now subscribe to K's beautifully put view that it is less 'Guardian soulmates' and more like 'Guardian Soul destroyer.'

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

And the tears came...

Yesterday I had a big cry. Oh yes, the really self indulgent, nose streaming, soaking cheeks, big sobs, choking whines, hearty healthy weep.

It had only been 4 days since my last crying episode - clearly I was due. What is with me at the moment? I'm just one big tear fest. Anything sets me off. Even now, thinking as I type, the old water ducts are about to brim over. I can't even blame PMT. The older I get the more emotional I seem to become.

So what had sent me scuttling for half a roll of kitchen paper yesterday? Well, lately I feel like I've been in the firing line, when in fact I haven't actually intentionally done anything to warrant it. Everywhere I've turned somehow I'm involved in drama that I want no part of. I'm not dwelling on all this - it is just it takes me time to process things, from my stomach to stop churning about it all, to stop feeling wounded. After I was bullied by a director on a travel show I worked on in 2003 - it took me until around 2008 to stop having nightmares (occasionally) about the whole sorry episode. I'm not one of those people who switches off (christ I wish I was) I don't have a duck's back. Unlike Husband who just feels 'fuck 'em' about everything and doesn't lose an ounce of sleep no matter how enormous his obstacle. He LOVES confrontation, loves to wage a war - but I'm all squiggy and soft and a bit rubbish at all that. I just want to get on with everyone and everyone to like me and us all to be happy smiley campers.

But yesterday's tears were to do with my Father. My arrow had been pointing towards the 'blue' chart to begin with - post Italy. I'm always at my happiest surrounded by my oldest buddies - I feel so comfortable and safe with them all - happiest to laugh at myself, happiest to laugh with them. So the great event I had long awaited was all done and I have no idea when we'll all be in the same room again. There was a time when there were weddings/30ths galore, but that is long gone and now we're all secretly counting down the months until the 40ths - an excuse to party together again.

My Mum had said my Dad had rung, wanting my middle name (yes he doesn't even know that) and to 'just check' my date of birth etc. I called him and as I predicted, he was changing his will and needed some details. Now I should explain - My Father re-married my Step mother in '87. She is 10 years older than him and has two daughters, ten years plus older than me. They are now 48 and 51. The 51 year old has two boys - and they live around the corner from my Dad. He has been more of a Father to those two boys than he ever was to me. It never really bothered me, as my Dad is an immature 65 year old, and it took him until his 50s to sprout any kind of parenting gene. But now I have my own children I cannot help but compare how little attention he gives to my kids - and how much he showers on the others (15 and 11). He argues it is because they live near him and I am an hours flight away. But you see, he has never got on that flight. I have lived in England for 20 years and not once - not ever, has he visited me.

I excused this away for many years 'I live in student flats,' then 'my flat is small' but now, in my 3 bed house in a sunny little leafy village outside London and 20 mins drive from the airport - I can't quite hold this up. Which brings me to yesterday. I had called him and contrary to his plans for his will in the past (2/3 of everything he owns going to me 1/3 to my stepmother) it will now all be divided between me and my step-sisters equally. Fair enough - he can do what he wants with his money, regardless of the fact they have their own father who has never had any other chidren and who will leave his estate to them. No, what hurt the most is that should my Dad get sick - they are his powers of attorney. They will be in charge of all his finances - not me. Not his blood child. The child whose graduation he couldn't be bothered to go to; the child he neglected during teenage years; the child he has never asked to spend Xmas with; the child he has never visited; the child he rang a week before her wedding to say he wouldn't make a speech if she insisted upon invited her Mother's ex (her surrogate Dad) to the wedding... I could go on.

When I first heard his news I was so stunned I muttered I had to go and read Sproglet a bedtime story and hung up. But yesterday, well I couldn't really sleep. I wanted to know what had changed - why had he altered his will so drastically - why am I - once again - shoved to the bottom of his priority pile? So I rang him. Now my dad doesn't do 'conversation' unless it is about football. Ask him any kind of awkward question and it is a match to a flame - he just flares up and a row has begun even though you are talking calmly and trying to reason. Imagine a 65 year old toddler. There you have him. So he rages at me 'is this about money?' It isn't actually. It is about feeling important in his life. Something I have never ever done. My mind harks back to the day my Grandfather (his Father whom he lived with at the time) had a heart attack - and I (13 at the time) was left to call the ambulance etc. Dad - well he was refereeing - and as usual I was maybe 3rd or 4th on his priority list. He arrived home as the ambulance left - having no idea the nightmare that had just occurred.

He hangs up. Something he frequently does as he just can't bear to actually listen to someone else, to understand or relate to what they are going through. I cried. Mainly frustrated that once again I let him upset me. I swore when he didn't see me graduate - that he would never hurt me again. But he has. Over and over and over. He has never been to my son's birthday parties, or watched him play football - but he has had his other step- grandchildren to stay EVERY weekend since they were born. He never shuts up about them bursting with pride at all they do. They are boys, he is a referee. Me being a girl never really cut it.

So now, I don't know where to go from here. Part of me just wants to cut the man from life - no father equals no hurt - yes? The other part of me feels there may be a letter I need to write - to tell him how I feel - to not let him fill the air with his lame excuses and jokey side swipes, avoiding responsibility at all costs. I'm not sure. I cannot ever imagine not visiting Sproglet or Sproglette in 20 years - expecting them to always do the running - a one way relationship. Sure he loves me, in his own twisted way. I am sure he even cares. But has he been there for me, when I have ever needed him? No.

Which is fine for me, but not for my kids. I won't let him do to them what he did to me with his false promises and dashed hopes. So I cried, for the little girl inside me that still wants her Daddy's approval - who still wants to be loved. Who wants to be a priority, but never will be.