Friday 31 July 2009

'Sorry' seems to be the hardest word...

... unless it's what you're writing when you're on holiday and haven't had the time to tend to your blog as you normally would, in which case I'm afraid it comes far too easily.

So please, accept my apologies for not commenting on other people's blogs as I normally would. I AM reading them, it's just that the time I devote to this is stolen from teaching the Boys' swimming, sitting reading the latest John Updike, and sipping a glass of rose in the sunshine, so I'm sure you'll agree it's not that high on my list of priorities. Plenty of time for that in what I'm assured is rainy old London when I get home...

Ditto on the comments here. I think it's the height of rudeness not to reply if someone is kind enough to leave a remark in my comments box, but I've given myself a few days off from this, so I hope that hasn't been seen as too rude.

And finally, whilst a lot has been happening not all of it has been bloggable so I'm going to impinge on your good will again and, with your permission, and once more direct you to Powder Room Graffiti, where I am wittering on about how what is supposed to be a feel-good experience - getting a haircut - so often isn't...

Normal service will be resumed shortly, but in the meantime I do beg your pardon for my lack of input. And now I have to go; my glass of rose is getting warm...

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Excitement - Boy #2 style

Ah, the holidays.

Blue skies, warm temperatures, long and lazy days spent by the pool with your children.

(Although of course we all know that 'lazy' isn't a term that is strictly true, if you count the supermarket shopping that for some reason seems to happen far more frequently in a foreign country, the high alert each time one of the children goes near water, the constant annointings of the kids with sun cream, the constant applications of the same with mosquito repellant, the cooking, tidying, the searching for the lost swim goggles, the searching for the lost swim shorts, and the running back to the supermarket for the extra wine you need because unaccountably you seem to have drunk the half case you bought the day before yesterday in less than 48 hours...)

But still, blue skies, family time, adventures in mysterious castles. Paradise, really.

So what, I wondered, was Boy #2's favourite part of our holiday? Would it be the pool games?
The frequent access to ice-cream? The jousting at the castle (more of which another time)?

Oh no.

"It was when we drove over the railway lines that crossed the road, mummy."

Excitment is a level crossing. Of course.

Monday 27 July 2009

Paperback writer...

We're travelling, hence the unaccustomedly long quiet on my part - and the lack of a British Blogging Mummy of the Week. Apologies for that; I even have one all lined up but I've missed my slot so you'll just have to bear the suspence until next Sunday when I'm back in the UK. Can you bear it? Can you? (Don't answer that...)

In the meantime...

Have you ever finished a book and felt - well - 'used'?

No names, no pack drill, but I have, more than once, and it's always my own stupid fault. Firstly I'm of the 'I've started so I'll finish' school of readers, and secondly, I'm a sucker for a '3 for 2' offer. Not always the best of combinations. So I wander into Waterstones, Smiths, Borders, and a title I've read about catches my eye. It's usually well-reviewed, or at the very least by an author whom I like, and I think to myself, AHA! At last, the chance to read some 'quality'...

But then, as I turn and walk towards to the till, I am besieged by a host of alternatives all with those appealing little circular orange stickers on the front cover. Buy me! they say. Not that one. Oh, you'll learn something from that one, that's for sure. You'll enjoy it, no doubt. But will it pull it's weight? Does it count towards the holy grail of a 'free book'? I don't think so... Look, look, all around you, here are my sister titles, also on Buy One Get One Free, my siblings in shame, all of us cheap as chips and twice as nasty... Go on, go on... you know you want to...

And guess what? I do want to. Free books? Who wouldn't? And before I know it my worthy interesting book is left forlornly on a shelf whilst I rifle through chick-lit heaven and I leave the store with a bag full of titles that there is NO WAY I will ever have the nerve to display on the bookshelves, and which - once read - will instead be delivered shame-facedly in a plain brown paper bag to Oxfam in one of my yearly purges....

So anyway, that's how it happens that I frequently find myself reading books that are like candyfloss - too sweet, that leave a disgusting taste in your mouth, and are full of empty calories.
But that's so easy to say. Get me, huh? Passing judgement on other people's hard work and effort. Who am I to say these things and not have had a shot at writing something better myself?
So I decided to have a go at it. Why not?

But you can see the diabolical results over at Powder Room Graffiti. And I warn you; it's not pretty...

Wednesday 22 July 2009

AND another thing...

I'm having a rant. If you're in a lovely flowery happy place, click away now...

Still here? Right. Then I'll begin....

First... Why is it that cyclists in London are so self-righteous these days? Obviously they are doing less harm to the environment than car drivers, I get that, but how on earth do they expect to be given the same rights as a car when they don't follow any of the same rules? For example, I can't count the number of times a cyclist has refused to stop or slow down at a pedestrian or a zebra crossing when I'm walking over with my children. And yet, if you challenge them on it, they get all upset. (And yes, I know it takes extra puff to slow down and speed up all the time. But they're cycling in London for goodness' sake. What do they expect?).

Plus, PLUS, cyclists going through red lights on a busy junction. Where in the highway code does it say that's allowed? Is there an extra booklet they issue to cyclists that says 'It's not strictly allowed to jump a red light but you're on two wheels rather than four and using pedal power so, what the hell, you're a saint and exempt from normal road laws. Go for your life...'

And whilst we're at it, why is it, when I'm out walking through London with my boys, male drivers (or even male cyclists) feel it's acceptable to comment if they think my children are too close to the edge of the pavement, are taking too long to cross the road, or they're just having a bad morning and are looking for someone to bully? Ask yourself, would they do that if I was my 6' 4" husband? I think not.

And finally; please, non-blogging PR people (I exclude blogging PR's - you know where it's at, this is not aimed at you at all), if you've even bothered to read this far down the post (which would be a first), take note of the following;


If I don't answer you the first time you e-mail me that is probably because I don't have the time. I know you're working to a deadline. I probably noted what it was when I read your e-mail and promptly prioritised it at the bottom of my list whilst trying to lead something approaching a normal life and simultaneously being a Butlins redcoat. Bombarding me with follow-up mails reminding me that 'time is running out to participate' will not make me feel any kinder to you when I'm dealing with two children hopping around like mad things. I will answer you when I can (if, that is, your note is remotely relevant or interesting - never a given, I'm afraid); and there is nothing more likely to make me hit 'delete' than a second, third, or even fourth email chasing me.

And - breeeeaaaaatheeee.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Life's soundtrack...

Does your life has a soundtrack? You might not realise it, but I bet it does. Even if you can't sit there and list it, I have no doubt that you'll be walking past a shop, an open window, or hopping through the stations on your car radio and just a few notes of a particular song will transport you back to a particular moment as easily as the voice of Tracey Chapman takes me back to Swanage beach during my second year at uni.

I've been at this blogging lark for a couple of years and I still don't know how to embed a video in a post. Rubbish, I know, but if you have a moment please indulge me and open up a second screen, click on this link, and listen to the music as you read my post.

I love The Rolling Stones. I didn't get into them until my mid-twenties, but when I did it was as if I had walked out of a stuffy room and into a blue and bracing beach-side day, all white puffs of cloud, bright sunshine, stinging sand kicked up by the wind in the dunes, and spray from the breakers smacking you in the face, making you glad to be alive. This is especially true when I listen to their earlier stuff.

I remember particularly the first time I listened to this song. I had just split up from a long term boyfriend (previously mentioned here as 'Sporty Boy'), and was driving to a friend's wedding, which frankly I was dreading somewhat. You know; all those happy couples, the ultimate affirmation of togetherness etc etc - the last thing you need when there's no-one to slow dance with at the end of the evening.

And then this song came on. I'm not sure if it's the choir, the horn, the beat, or Mick's vocals, but something got my attention, and I started listening to lyrics. A lot of them are just filler, but the chorus; 'You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need' stopped me in my tracks.

I started to feel unaccountably optimistic and uplifted (As a convent girl, I was always a sucker for a choir). Far better to be at the wedding on my own and surrounded by my best friends with a lifetime of possibilities in front of me than spending the weekend fretting about a relationship gone sour, I decided, and I went to the celebrations and had a fantastic time. Shortly after that I met Husband. And I can tell you now that he was exactly what I needed.

I know that this sentiment -'You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need' - will mean different things to everyone, but to me it means getting out there, grabbing life with both hands, and making the best of it. Stop being reactive, bemoaning the bad hand life has dealt you. Take control - you might find you like it. Things might not work out as you originally planned, but if you've given it a shot in the best way you can, then they have a habit of working out for the best.

And the older I get, the more I realise that this is true. If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know that I love London. It's my home, and I think it probably always will be. Leaving it would be hard. But life is - or can be - an Adventure. Moscow's calling; and whilst we've not made a final decision, I think it might be time to start looking out the suitcases...

(Gosh, that was therapeutic. I think I might put a soundrack to more of my posts in the future...)

Sunday 19 July 2009

British Mummy Blogger of the Week

No pearls of wisdom this week, or even attempts at being funny. It's the end of Week #1 of the summer holidays and - well, I don't really have to say any more than that, do I? And if I do, then you either have pre-school children so to you the summer holidays are like water off a duck's back, or your children have grown up and moved on. Or, you don't have kids - yet. In which case, what are you doing here when there are vodka martinis to be drunk and wild sex on the kitchen table to be had? (Leave me my illusions, please...)

There are now 434 members of the British Mummy Bloggers' Ning, and looking through them today, it struck me that some of the newer members may not have come across some of those who have been around a little longer, so I decided today to highlight one of them. But where to start? There are so many that I check in on regularly, and I don't want to cause any upset or offence to those I don't name because frankly, I would like to nominate all of you.

(OK, disclaimer made, I can continue now...)

In the end I closed my eyes, stuck a finger on the screen and came up with this week's British Mummy Blogger of the week; A Confused Take That Fan, 30 . She writes about herself:

'I'm early 30s (only just), an ex journo and I like Jason Orange, no make it Gary Barlow, baking buns, daydreaming, watching McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy, stroking my little girls soft cheeks, laughing, magazines, chatting, parma ham, holidays and sun, France, houses, movies and being in love...'

And I particularly recommend that you check out her post on parenting tip #236; how not to impress the school run mums. Getting drunk and messy in situations in which one should know better? Gosh, I'm so glad that I never behave like that...

To check out the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but Dads can be members too)

Friday 17 July 2009

Bing Bong!

Rise and shine Campers, and welcome to a glorious new day here in Sunny Pines School Summer Holidays Park!

We have a packed day ahead, so let's get started early with our first mandatory activity: at 6.50am it's Waking the Parents by bouncing all over them. Never mind that no-one needs to get up for another hour; there's a whole day's fun waiting for us, let's get to it! And if your lazy lie-abed mum and dad don't want to play ball, a spot of recreational wrestling over who gets to play with the plastic sperm whale culminating in one or either of you smacking your sibling - or for maximum effect, your parents - across the head with it should get them out from under that duvet in a hurry...

After Waking the Parents, it's time for the Getting Dressed Challenge. And the challenge is... stringing this one out for as long as possible! Never mind that you want to go outside and race around in the Sunny Pines summer rain - who needs shorts and shoes to do this when you're wearing your pyjama top and a pith helmet? Prizes will be awarded for the contestants who manage to make it past 10.00am still not wearing their underwear...

The fun never stops here at Sunny Pines, as we move onto the Great Breakfast Moan. What? You've been up since 6.50am without a whimper? Time to put a stop to that! Demand a blow by blow intinerary of forthcoming events from your parents, and those of you who manage to extract a 'head in hands' moment from them before they've even finished their branflakes will make it onto our special role of honour...

At Sunny Pines we pride ourselves on keeping things moving even when it's pouring with rain outside, so for those of you not signed up for summer school, why not take part in our Household Rumble? See how much mess you can make when confined inside with only your brother, some colours and an A4 pad for company! Extra points will be awarded for such initiatives as pencil sharpenings being emptied all over the floor, or uncapped felt-tips being stuffed down the back of the sofa. And never forget that inspired art can make just as good use of crumbs found under the dining room table as it does of paints and stickers.

Towards the end of the day when you're getting a little tired, why not join the Sunny Pines team in our 'Major Play for Early TV Watching?' Start with the incessant requests around 2.00pm and if you're a gold-level whinger you may even find you reach your goal early, in time for Power Rangers at 3.00!

And who needs those term-time-polite dinners? At Sunny Pines, you can join in our 'Dinner Time Complaints Fest' and drive your parents that little bit closer to the edge for extra fun! So you used to eat that chicken / casserole / sausage pasta without complaint on a school night? Not any more, Campers! Demand your chicken nuggets like a good holiday guest and watch your parents' plans for a summer of healthy holiday eating shrivel and die like the sweetpeas planted in the same corner of the garden you use for your unscheduled loo breaks... Then drown the chicken / casserole / sausage pasta in ketchup and eat it all without a word - just to keep them on their toes...

Finally, let's finish the day the day with the Bed and Bath Marathon. Extra points will be awarded for shrieking, splashing, standing up wees in the bath, racing naked around the house, racing naked around the garden, racing naked around your neighbour's house, and then tantrumming because all this naked racing activity has meant you missed the 6.40pm showing of Charlie & Lola on C-Beebies.

And just for good measure, if you can stimulate your parents to break open the wine before they even pour you your bedtime milk, you will gain maximum points and go straight to the top of the leader board!

Good luck, Campers! Have great day!

Please note: 'Sunny Pines' is not a real holiday camp. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is completely coincidental. (My sons are angels). All events and competitions detailed above are fictitious. We are not taking bookings.

Breastfeeding - at ANY cost?

A couple of friends of mine had babies last week; child number 3, for both of them, and boys, for both of them. We've known each other for a few years now; the three of us met at our NCT antenatal classes before our first babies were born nearly six years ago. So neither of my friends are what you might call novices at this baby-rearing lark.

I visited one of them yesterday afternoon, and she told me how for the first couple of days after her son was born she had trouble breastfeeding. This was not unexpected, it hadn't been plain sailing with either of her two older children, but she wanted to persevere because, like many of us, she believes that breast-feeding is the best start for her child.

After 3 days, however, her son had lost 8% of his bodyweight, and was starting to look jaundiced. She mentioned this to the NHS midwife who visited her on Friday afternoon. Should she start supplementing with bottles, she asked? Oh no, came the reply. You're not at the thresh-hold at which we advise that. Somewhat relieved, my friend thought she would ask just one more question; what is the threshold at which you suggest supplementing? 10%, came the answer.


OK, well, what if he continues to lose weight and becomes more yellow over the weekend? Do you have a number I can call you on? No, I'm not working this weekend. But if you call the switchboard they will have a chat to you and if need be will advise you to go to hospital. Otherwise I'll see you early next week.

Hold on a moment.

Now, my friend has no truck with statistics and government initiatives. 2% was not a big enough margin for error as far as she was concerned, and the first thing she did after the midwife left was to sterilise some bottles and get ready to supplement her son after feeding him herself, if need be, which she felt was necessary that same evening. All's well that ends well; he took the extra, her milk properly came in over the weekend, and he's now an entirely breast-fed baby again.

Now I know that there are people out there who will think my friend was potentially slowing down her milk-production by introducing the odd bottle like this. And I know too all about the studies listing the valuable nutrients and immune system being passed from mothers to babies in their milk and about 'breast being best' for babies.

But here's my question. What if my friend had not been a confident, well-informed 3rd time mother who decided to put her son's health above any WHO initiative that the local midwife service was working towards, waiting instead for the visit 'early next week' before taking any more action? And what if she had given birth in the depths of winter so that in our dim Northern light, spotting that her son was turning a little bit more yellow than he should do was not so easy?

How far might it have gone?

Jaundice is relatively common in newborns, especially boys. It happens when, for one reason or another, their bilirubin levels get out of control and their body is unable to flush the toxin out of the system - and not getting enough milk can contribute to this. Jaundice is so common, in fact, that many people think of it as a simple condition that simply fades away after a couple of weeks, and usually that's just what happens. But if it's untreated or gets out of control, jaundice can affect a baby's brain and can lead to hearing loss, learning difficulties and late development. (Check here for more information).

So jaundice needs to be taken seriously. And where might this midwife's lack of concern about the combination of jaundice and weight loss in my friend's baby have led?

Might it have ended up with her son suffering severe jaundice and being admitted to hospital again less than a week after he was born?

Might he have had to - at 8 days old - lie naked on a hospital cot with a canula in his heel to pump fluids into him, all the while criying piteously because his foot hurt, and he wanted a cuddle but was not allowed to be picked up because he needed maximum exposure to the UV lights that shone in his newborn eyes 24 hours a day?

Might he have experienced proper hunger because his tummy was empty but he was not allowed to be fed by mouth because the doctors needed to know exactly how much fluid he was getting through the IV?

Might it have ended with his mother's milk production being totally decimated through the shock of the whole experience, consequently meaning that he became an entirely bottle-fed baby, after all?

And in case you think I'm being needlessly dramatic, this is exactly what happened, to us. So please forgive me if I don't toe the party line on this one.

Breastfeeding - at ANY cost? I don't think so.

Thursday 16 July 2009


Potty Mummy.

For self publicisation and having the nerve to imagine that having taken the time to visit her blog here, you will bother to click through to Powder Room Graffiti and see her latest offering there...

(In my defence, it's the school holidays. And I promise to do better tomorrow...)

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Out of the mouths of babes...

Boy #1 and I went out to do a spot of shopping today. On leaving the supermarket, he kept glancing in a certain direction. Interested, I followed his gaze, to where a very attractive and polished blonde teenage lovely was sitting on a step, clearly waiting for her friends.

We were rushing to beat the rain, but as we neared this gazelle-like creature, all long legs, silky straightened hair and short skirts (the hussy), my son's pace slowed to a crawl.

I tried to bustle him on, but it wasn't working.

He stopped as we got level with her. Oh god, I thought. What the hell's he going to say? Is he going to try and chat her up? Ask her for her phone number? (You're laughing, I expect, and I know he's only 5 years old, but he's always had a thing for blondes, the traitor).

I needn't have worried.

"Aaaaah," he said, sympathetically, as he looked down at her sitting on the step outside Waitrose. "You poor thing. Don't you have a home?"

Monday 13 July 2009

Who's in charge here?

It's Day 4 (or thereabouts; I'm already losing the ability to reason and count above three) of the summer holidays, and my Boys - the little darlings - have begun to gang up on me.

They could at least have waited until Day 8.

Yesterday afternoon I was involved in some job or other (laundry, cooking, tidying, who knows? I've also lost the ability to remember what I did 5 minutes ago...), and could hear Boy #2 wailing inconsolably in the next room.

Now, Boy #2 does a good line in inconsolable wails, and pulls them out for everything from a nasty bump on the head to not being able to find his blanket, to not being tall enough to reach the book he wants. Bearing that in mind, and figuring that I had the whole summer to reach the stage where I would drop everything and rush to his aid at the first whimper, I decided to finish whatever it was I was doing (emptying the dishwasher? Putting away the shopping? It will come to me, I'm sure...) before going to check it out. Let them know who's boss, right? And besides, if it was really serious I was confident that Chief Tell-tale Boy #1 (more of which another time) would come in and find me.

5 minutes later I finished what I was doing and arrived at the scene of the crime. Boy #2 was sitting on the floor, distraught because he was unable to do his shoes up. Not life threatening, I think you'll agree.

I knelt down next to Boy #2 as his brother looked on, and not having a tissue about me, used my hand to wipe away his tears, comforting him as I did so. Then I gave him a cuddle for good measure. Looking at me sorrowfully with his big brown eyes, he grabbed my hand again and took it back up to his cheek.


Then, he blew his nose on it.

Through my subsequent protestations of how disgusting that was, I could hear his older brother in the background. "Good job, Boy #2! Well done!"

So much for showing them who's boss.

I'm toast.

Sunday 12 July 2009

British Mummy Blogger of the Week


I've done it. It's Sunday morning, and I do not have a hangover; my body is truly a temple. And just to prove how much so, I was compus mentis enough this morning to check in on the comments on yesterday's post and realise just how much consternation my reference to JR and Sue-Ellen's divorce being 25 years ago caused out there.

In my unusually Sunday-morning clear mind I thought I would put you out of your misery and check the facts on Wikipedia. First, the good news. I was wrong, it wasn't 25 years ago. Second, the bad news. I was 3 years short. It was 28 years ago that Soapland's favourite couple split for the first time. And yes, that does make me feel ancient. However, for those of you grasping at straws, they also split again (after remarrying) in 1988. Cold comfort, I know; that's still a long 21 years past...

But enough trivia, let's get to the important stuff; this week's recommended British Blogging Parent of the Week. Dylan Jones writes that his blog 'Brit out of Water' is;

'...about the trials and tribulations of moving to New York from London, and coming to terms with life in a new land - as a husband, a stepdad...and soon to be a dad.'

And I heartily recommend that you check out his memories of spending the day with Michael Jackson. Well; a Michael Jackson impersonator, anyway...

To check out the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but clearly, Dads can be members too)

Saturday 11 July 2009

You're a liar and a cheat...

...and an unfit blogger, PM...

(and for anyone wondering where I lifted that from, think; Sue-Ellen's divorce from the evil JR in 'Dallas' around 25 years ago). (Yes. I am that old.)

Why am I a cheat? Because I've been far too busy spending quality time with the Boys and Husband at the London Wetlands Centre to get round to writing a decent post (or indeed to find time to reply to yesterday's post's comments, sorry about that, I promise I will), so instead I respectfully request that if you do want a window on our lives, you check here on for some retrospective holiday musings.

And then look out of your window at the pouring July rain, and join me in wondering why we bothered to come back to grey old Blighty...

Friday 10 July 2009

PI Potty Mummy at your service...

So today is the first day of the summer holidays. And whilst one part of me thinks; 'Great! No getting up at the crack of dawn to get to school by 8.15am, lots of time to spend one on one with my Boys, let's kick back and take it easy for a while', another part of me thinks something else entirely. Like;

As a result this will be quite a short post...

Before I go though, Carex have been in touch. I know, I know. My rock and roll lifestyle knows no limits. However, as a mum who has had a child with MRSA (most likely contracted at hospital - although nothing is certain), I'm very interested in making sure hands get washed properly, so when I saw that they're running a campaign called 'Hands up for Hygeine' aimed at making sure children get the habit of washing their hands properly young, I was understandably interested.

Amongst other things, Carex have offered to send me some products to review (whoopdidoo) and some games to encourage the Boys to wash their hands properly. This would be helpful since as all mums know, boys are generally allergic to cleanliness (Exhibit 1: Boy #1's nails yesterday evening. Exhibit 2: Boy #2's yesterday evening). As for washing their hands properly, I suspect that in fact they don't wash their hands at all much of the time, although I am seldom able to prove it...

However, and more interestingly, Carex have said they may be able to loan me a special lightbox thingy to check out just how well hands are washed when they do encounter soap and water.
Now THAT I want to see. Can you imagine? As someone who just yesterday evening was telling my sons that not only do I have eyes in the back of my head, I have them in my ears as well (they don't understand the concept of peripheral vision just yet, so I just call it magic), I foresee hours of fun here as follows;

Have you washed your hands?
Why yes mother, I have.
In that case you won't mind undergoing my patented 'mummy-always-finds-out-the-truth-sooner-or-later' lightbox test...
No! Not the lightbox test!
Move them into the light... show me your hands... Ha! I knew it!

However. This one could be a double-edged sword. I also think that if this gadget is as portable as they make out, it could lead to all sorts of difficult situations, with CSI-style scenario's cropping up everywhere. Oh, it would start off easily enough. I might check that a waiter has washed his hands when he passes me a glass of wine. But then I might move on to checking out shopkeepers as they pass me my change. And heaven forbid, will this gadget work on inanimate objects? Like taps in public loo's, or door handles, or - please, no - hotel sheets?

For the sake of my sanity, I should probably say no.

I won't, though. It's far too tempting...

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Does anyone here speak Pre-Schooler?

The following conversation took place as I cajoled Boy #2 out of the bath yesterday...

Me: "Come on, Boy #2. Time to get out."

Boy #2: "But... but.... I am BUSY!"

Me: "Oh yes? What are you doing?"

Boy #2: "I am cleaning the biscuit house."

Me: "Really?"

Boy #2: "Yes. And it is very difficult... Because it is very messy... Because the biscuit man is nooooot helping."

Me: "Right."

Boy #2: "And the dog is not helping, either. But I am doing a good job..."

I don't doubt it. Or, I wouldn't, if I knew what the hell he was talking about.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Tuesday witter

So I hear through family that my sister in law, half-way through her maternity leave with her 3 month old second child, is finding things tough. She says that she's 'a career woman'. This being at home with the kids lark is not for her; it's too difficult.

I feel incredibly sympathetic (no, really, I do). It is a shock to the system when your second baby arrives. What you previously thought of as hard work - looking after child #1 - is suddenly proved to have been a walk in the park. You know, when you have time to sit and look at your year old / 18 month old first baby / toddler, and the hormones do their special dance, weave their magic and you think "Aah, let's have a second one. I know what I'm doing now. How hard can it be?"

And of course, whilst everyone around you and all the books out there tell you exactly how hard, frankly you don't really believe that these tales of exhaustion, changing two sets of nappies, dealing with a demanding toddler unable to properly communicate with you, and a world that thinks doing these things are as easy as water off a duck's back actually apply to you. It will be hard, yes, but you'll be OK. Perhaps you'll even have more! I mean, you always said 2 or 4 kids, right...?

But enough about me.

What I'm trying to get round to saying is that my sister-in-law is only now finding out that being at home with your kids is just about the only job in the world for which you get no proper training other than that which you provide yourself. No wonder she's finding it hard. As a new - or repeat - parent you are simply parachuted in and expected to get on with it. And not only to get on with it, but to love it with every fibre of your being, and never complain, ever, about the long hours, the crap pay, and the lack of an appraisal structure.

I mean, obviously, you are getting to spend all your time with your children, to be there for all the important milestones, and to ensure that they are well-cared for and well-looked after.

But no shit Sherlock, yes, it's hard.

So here's one way of looking at it, for all those at home, struggling, and who are thinking that they are not cut out for this 24/7 parenting business. That they are career women / men.

Let's pretend. Let's pretend that being a stay-at-home carer is a 'proper job'.

(You know, one that you get recognition for doing, one that doesn't get regularly dissed in the press by people who've either never tried it or who struggled through their maternity leave desperate to get back to work for proper pay, conversation, wearing smart clothes and killer shoes, and the chance to go to the loo with the door shut. Aaaah, the memories...)


You've taken on this new and 'proper' job. It's in an unfamiliar field, but it's something you've wanted to do for a while, and haven't had the chance to do until now. Some parts of this new job are AMAZING. Some parts suck. Whilst dealing with the latter, you ask yourself whether or not you've done the right thing. But over time, although the AMAZING parts may become a little muted - simply through the fact they become commonplace - the parts that suck actually don't suck quite so much. You get used to them. You find coping skills to make them seem less awful. And sooner or later, you find you're actually becoming quite good at this new job. You feel more confident, more able to cope, and you begin to enjoy yourself.

Let's be honest though, the job descripition hasn't changed; what's happened is that you've grown into it. Sound familiar? Does that sound, in fact, like many jobs you might have had throughout your life? Well, welcome to parenting. And like most jobs, whilst there are some people for whom childcare is as easy as falling off a log, there are others for whom it takes a little longer - and I make no bones about the fact that I was one of those, too.

Until we stop telling ourselves that being the main carer should be easy, we're going to continue imagining that if we don't 100% love it straightaway we're better off doing something different.

Now I'm not for one moment suggesting that we turn back the clock and that the legions of working mums should throw in the towel and stay home to look after the kids. Please, no. Not only would the economy collapse, but everyone should do what is right for their family. On top of that, from a purely selfish perspective, I want to go back to work one day, no doubt about it, and I'll need as many of you there as I can get. (For a start, what man is going to have the nerve to tell me that my skirt is tucked into my knickers when I come back from the loo? And yes, it's happened before...)

I'm talking, I suppose, to those who currently find themselves at home and looking after their kids, and are shocked or miserable at how hard they're finding it, whether that's on maternity leave, in between jobs, or because it's the only way right now. I would just ask you to question the assumption that what you're doing - looking after your children yourself - should be easy, and not to beat yourselves up about it if that's not your experience.

I mean, why should it be easy? It's something worth doing, and when was that stuff ever easy?

Monday 6 July 2009

Shock News!


Which is short-hand for; 'help, I'm beset by a three year old begging me to play scary t-rex's (after a therapeutic trip to the cinema yesterday to see Ice Age 3 which has resulted in much growling, roaring and chasing activity from said child with model dinosaurs), so I can't actually spend more than two minutes at the computer today'.

As a result, I'm sending you here, to Powder Room Graffiti, where I've outlined a job description for some assistance (aka 'a desperate cry for help') that I suspect is going to be needed more than ever over the summer break...

Sunday 5 July 2009

British Mummy Blogger of the Week

There seems to be a worrying tendancy for my British Mummy Blogger of the Week post always to feature the fact that I am just a little bit hungover. In fact, anyone checking in every now and again to find out who it is might even be excused for thinking I can't take my drink. (Newsflash; I've had two children. Of course I can't take my drink.)

In any case, I'm not going to bore you with tales of hangovers etc today in case it starts to seem that my Saturday nights are always blurry. Suffice it to say though that plans I wrote of in yesterday's post for time off sipping cocktails with my girlfriends have been put on hold indefinitely due to lack of battle-readiness on my part. And if you wouldn't mind dimming the screen a little and keeping your voice down, it would be much appreciated...

Right. Let's get down to it. This week's British Mummy Blogger of the week writes of herself:

'I'd like to think it all started when I accidentally took an overdose of dog hormone tablets but, truth be told, things were strange long, long before that...'

Check out Stickhead's blog Slightly South of Sanity for a very entertaining read, not least for her fantastic tip on how to keep your kids amused at the park on hot day...

To check out the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but we're not fussy. Dads can be members too!)

Saturday 4 July 2009


Does it make me a bad mother that I have started to think I will be a better one if I have some time off?

I don't mean anything radical. Just a couple of days away from the constant hum of a family.

I love my Husband and Boys beyond life, but sitting at the breakfast table this morning and being assaulted (yes, that is how it feels, and no, I'm not good first thing) from all sides by a) Husband discussing his forthcoming travel plans b) Boy #1 talking 10 to do the dozen about how 'merit' badges at school need to be shared around and that's why he didn't get one on Friday (hmmm) and c) Boy #2 talking about - well, actually I can't remember what he was talking about, which in itself is not surprising but nevertheless makes me feel I'm failing him in some way - I found myself dreaming of some time away.

Not on my own, mind you. No, I'm not after splendid solitude. What I want is a couple of days just kicking up my heels, drinking too much, sleeping in late and generally shooting the breeze somewhere warm and balmy with a girlfriend or two.

However, with a move likely, the summer holidays around the corner, girlfriends with equally busy lives, and Husband's work taking him away from home more than is strictly civilised, it doesn't seem likely any time soon.

Ah well.

I can't fit into my 'warm and balmy' girl's night gear anyway.

Pass the chocolate, somebody?

Friday 3 July 2009

True Brit (warning; this is not a tennis post)

Sometimes I just love being British.

There are plenty of times I could take it or leave it, you understand. Like during the current mania surrounding Wimbledon and the chance that Andy Murray might make it to the finals this weekend. Sorry, tennis fans, but that, I could definitely leave. Mind you, tennis is not my thing, so that's probably not a good example.

I'm not keen on announcing my nationality in certain European holiday resorts either, but that's probably more because I am (not so) secretly a bit of a snob and can't abide grown men - or women - in three-quarter length trousers. (Although for some reason the Scandinavians usually manage to carry that look off...)

But there are other times, like in our local Sainsbury's yesterday morning, when I just love being a Brit.

A late middle aged American couple accosted a managerial type by the strawberry fixture. She was clearly irate about something...

She (very politely): "I'm going to make a complaint to you, if I may?"

Managerial type (probably mid-40's, Scottish accent, equally polite, without missing a beat and with a broad friendly smile on his face): "Complain all you like, I'm not going to listen..."

There was a moment of shocked silence (broken only by my snort), and then all three started to laugh. With just one sentence the manager had managed to diffuse the situation and put them at their ease.

I don't know how the problem was resolved - it clearly was, since I saw the couple shopping happily 10 minutes later - because I was too busy laughing whilst trying not to look as if I'd been doing anything as nosy as listening to someone else's conversation...

But maybe finding that sort of thing funny is a British thing?

Thursday 2 July 2009

And now I am two...

Happy Blog-Birthday to me, Happy Blog-Birthday to me.... etc etc.

That wasn't how I intended to start this post. I was going to write about the fact that we (as in 'The Potty Family' - or more specifically, Husband and I) are in the Doghouse - note the capital D - as far as the other residents of our building are concerned.

However, I'm so bored by this myself that frankly I've decided not to subject you to tales of neighbourhood bickering over whether 'we' (The Potty Family) do or don't have the right to erect a set of steps - on our own property and meeting all planning regulations - up to the communal garden behind us. (Can you tell I'm cross? Thought not. I am a picture of calm...)

Instead, I will just state that whilst officially my 2nd blog-birthday is not until Sunday date-wise, it was on Thursday 2nd July 2 years ago that I kicked off The Potty Diaries with my first post, and bearing in mind that I hit post number 400 yesterday, today seemed as good a day as any to mark the fact that I have now been wittering away on the internet for such a long time.

Who would have thought my charming, funny, beautiful and entertaining Boys could provide me with so much interesting material? (With - admittedly - a little padding from me about related and unrelated subjects).

So, if you want to delve back into ancient history, here's the humdinger of a post that started it all.

Original title, huh? And note the plethora of comments. It took me a while to work out that commenting on other people's blogs might be what it took to get some visitors of my own...

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Battle fatigue...

...has set in.

This is a Bad Sign. The school holidays haven't even started yet, for goodness' sake, and already I'm feeling like a wet weekend in Formby. My darling Boys have been on the receiving of one too many short-fuses; things that would normally just wash over me - or which at least I could nine times out of ten shrug off with my usual mantra of 'they're 5/3, it's their job to be this way' - have been resulting in shouty responses and flouncing about in a prima-donna styley from me.

I'm old enough to know better and need to stop. Unfortunately the things that have resulted in my current state of mind aren't going away;

  • The unfortunate propensity of a five year old to whine when things don't go his way.
  • The 3-year old hard-wired response of a tantrum when things don't go his.
  • The unrelenting travel schedule of Husband meaning I have 'the con' far more often than is healthy for me.
  • The increasing likelihood of a move of country and the consequent chaos that will ensue.
  • The knowledge that if we do go there is every possibility that last August's fun and games with Boy #1's starting school will repeat itself all over again, and that there is nothing I can do, other than maintain a positive demeanour, to shield him (or myself) from it.
  • The looming summer holidays (the horror, the horror!).

And the heat isn't helping this wilting English rose either. (I know. That's how bad it's got; I'm actually complaining about good weather.)

On the plus side, chocolate and 30 degC + don't go well together, so at least I've lost a bit of weight...