Being a parent is an odd mix of being crippling lonely but also never being alone. It’s a time when your relationships shift and readjust and, sometimes, fall through the cracks. These are the places I found toughest- be sure to offer a smile at anyone clutching a baby here:
The Doctors’ Waiting Room
Going to the docs’ is bad at the best of times. No one likes the hushed tones, the oppressive heat, the panic when you didn’t hear if it was your name being called (‘Could bzzzz come to room bzzz for doctor bzzzz please?’). It’s stressful enough to navigate the fierce receptionists and disease-riddled copies of Saga Life magazine. When you add a screaming newborn and a bitching dose of mastitis then you are guaranteed to never have felt more alone. You wish your mum was there.
The Library Play Group
You feel duty-bound to take your child to the Read and Rhyme session at the library. A stash of library books signals you’re doing ok, right? Your kid will def have a head start if it can sing Frere Jacques, right? So you spend the morning prepping for the trip. You’ve remembered the buggy, the rain cover, the expressed milk, and the baby. You forget the library card and that makes you late. You have to squeeze on the edge of the circle and you slump down, just on the outskirts of the group, in a tiz of sweat and nappy bags. Everyone seems to know each other. You’re too self-conscious to sing so you mime the words. You cry in the car on the way home.
Now, a kid-free trip up the ‘big Tescos’ can feel akin to a mooch in Milan. With a kid, not so much. Some childless prat would’ve taken the last Parent and Child spot so you’ll have to schlep your child across the car park and the baby’s squawking in it’s car seat which is the heaviest thing you’ll ever carry and it’s banging against your hip and you’re already feeling like a failure because you’ve forgotten to bring any bags. Some old person will always tut and helpfully mutter ‘someone’s tired’ and you’ll shout ‘NO SHIT’ really loudly in your head. You might even torture yourself by morosely shunting the trolley through the clothes aisle hoping to find something that would fit, hide the puffiness and make you feel good. You realise you’ll have more luck with the latter in the bakery aisle. You’ll have a really lovely chat with the person on the checkout: they’re usually women, they’ve almost always had children and they always just seem to get it. As you walk back to the car from the trolley park, you think how that’ll be the last conversation you have today until your partner gets back from work.
You feel like a teenager when you realise social media makes you feel inferior. You should be above all that, should’ve out-grown it. But when you see all the vloggers, bloggers and buggers meeting up, winning awards and wearing cool slogan tshirts, you feel a key stage three sense of envy . You want to pose against a wall and drink cocktails and have a fringe. Social media manages to make you feel like everyone’s in the cool gang and you’re not invited. You buy a new red lipstick and practise your selfies with a sense of self-loathing.
You’ve arranged to meet someone you met at a baby group in the early days. You’ve stayed in touch sporadically since you first met in a musty village hall. Maybe she’s gone back to work and you haven’t. You feel like she’s got a million interesting things to talk about. You desperately think of things to ask her while you pick food off the floor and try to stop the baby from banging its Lamaze toy against the table. You look at your watch and think about making your excuses but only 40 minutes has passed. Will she think you’re being rude? You just want to go home and put your joggers on. You smile and ask her about her commute.
Feeling blue? Pop me a message and we can meet for a walk or a cuppa. We don’t even have to chat- we can just eat our feelings and have a little cry.
I’m not one for mushy shite. Our wedding vows consisted of phrases like ‘foreseeable future’, ‘extremely fond’ and ‘pension planning’. We don’t need to fuss each other too much.
But recently I have began to have a new and fresh appreciation of all the crap this mighty man has to put up with.
A ride on a Ferris Wheel in Stratford Upon Avon. Eating afternoon tea in the caravan in our garden. A ride in the back of a pickup truck. A complicated game of cafes in a tiddly Wendy house. You name it, he indulges it.
Being sat on
Our boys’ reason for being is to clamber on top of Andrew and sit on his head. They like to perch on him like deranged parrots. Then clamber down and sucker punch him in the stomach. William even cracked one AO’s ribs when he slam dunked in to him at top speed. Fecking lunatics.
All the questions
This man is the most patient answerer of dumb questions. He will never get cross or just show them the answer on YouTube. He will actually answer it properly. With patience. And a million synonyms.
All the love
We love him with a force that must be cloyingly oppressive. This is a man who went to boarding school. He’s a classic case of stiff upper lip and on with the job. And we pester him with affection and adoration and our constant need for his love in return.
Today also mined a new level of awesomeness in the man whose only weakness is a severe nut allergy.
This man was so tired from three consecutive nights of no sleep that he accidentally ate a bowlful of my healthy high-protein nut-riddled muesli.
I left him thick-tongued, puffy eyed and on the verge of vomiting whilst I sloped off to work. I then phoned him every ten minutes whilst he was trying to do the drop off in between bouts of puking. This man did the school run in the midst of semi-anaphylactic shock. Whilst simultaneously reassuring his wife that he was ‘fine’. Then went in to work and did two plea hearings, a cracked trial and a sentence.
** Was going to entitle this ‘Signs Your Mum’s Staying’ but it sounded like a year nine ‘your mum’ joke and I didn’t want to offend anyone. And now I’ve gone and offended year nines. #minefield **
Being a parent to young children is a bit shit a lot of the time. I would rate the following things as the two worst bits of having children:
1) having to be the adult
2) all the time…it’s relentless
Which is why it’s so bloody lovely to have mums come and stay because they are never-ending mothers to us therefore henceforth et voila they then have to be the grown up and we get to opt out!
Think about it, they are your parent and a parent’s job lot is to care for their child and mop up their literal and metaphorical mess. My children are my mess! Literal and metaphorical!
Having the grandparents visit means there is finally someone loco parentis and so that’s when I check out. I ruthlessly and shamelessly exploit my parents’ presence.
Here is a typical conversation:
Me: ‘Fancy a cup of tea mum?’
Put Upon Mother(PUM): ‘Lovely’
Wait long enough. Wait for it.
Me: ‘Oh, mum! I would’ve done that!’
Aren’t I the pits?!
But cups of tea aren’t the only sign that a grandparent is in da house. My mum leaves a trail of marvellousness behind her- sometimes, days after she’s left, I will realise she’s emptied our bins or changed bed sheets or distributed spare loo rolls or some other such helpful and thoughtful legacy from her visit.
In order to celebrate having such a spiffing mother and to celebrate all her kindness and to in some small way thank her and make amends for my quickness to shun my children and head for the hills whenever she visits, I have compiled a list of signs that mother has visited. Recognise any of them?
Everything is tidier and nicer
The washing that has been sitting the drum of the machine for three days is now out and drying. The wellies and smelly gym shoes are even called to order. It’s all tweaked and civilised.
There’s food everywhere
Thinking about what everyone is going to eat and then sourcing and making it and then fielding complaints and rejections is prob no.3 on my most hated list. But when mum’s around, so is food. Heaven.
The washing is neatly folded
Yes, you’re right, it is sorted in to orderly piles to ease the process of putting it away. Well spotted.
The kids becoming way less annoying
This may have something to do with the fact that the parent/child ratio is now 4:2. It helps immensely to have two more bods to help meet the children’s irrational, specific and ever changing demands.
No wonder we all adore her.
Although I harbour a good deal of resentment and envy towards people who have parents living nearby and on hand to step in, I know I am lucky to have a spectacular and endlessly patient kind and thoughtful non-judgemental mum to sweep in and be mum so I don’t have to. I think this is going to be the first time I use this without it being deeply sarcastic but I am ready to say I am, in all sincerity, #blessed.
I just hope my kids aren’t as entitled, lazy, needy and irritating as me when they have children. I’m wrapping up my parental duties the moment Kid2 hits 18. We can’t be too involved in grand parenting, the wig wearer and I have got retirement to be getting on with. I suppose I can always text the great-grandparents from my sun lounger.
As an under ten, I hated having hippy parents. No chocolate. No TV. No dolls!
As a teen, I loved having hippy parents. House parties. Trust. Freedom to roam about Canterbury as long as I phoned home from time to time (from a phone box! Anyone else remember those?!).
Through the first 15 years of my life, I managed to find something to rail against my parents about, but here is what I think they did right. It almost pains me to type this. Here goes.
They were right not to buy me dolls.
No Barbies. No My Little Ponies. No Flower Fairies. Aim bigger, daughters. We had trowels, notebooks and science sets.
The fierce woman who ran Brownies used to run our school’s netball team. I was one of the only girls not at Brownies. I never got to play: I was always ‘reserve’.
I remember passing a pair of scissors(blades first) to someone in class and being told snottily ‘of COURSE you don’t know how to do it properly, YOU don’t go to Brownies’.
But my mum didn’t want me to go. She would not allow me to swear allegiance to God and the Queen because she didn’t credit either very much. And she was right. So I went to Woodcraft Folk instead where I first met my now brother-in-law. See? It was where the cool kids hung.
No ‘bored’ ‘hate’ or ‘shut up’
We used to have to put 5p in the Barnardo’s box by the front door any time we said one of these three words. My mum was a discipline GENIUS because it has literally only just this minute occurred to me that we never got pocket money and yet passing over her 5ps still felt punishing.
And now, as a parent, I get it. Bored, hate and shut up are three of the ugliest phrases going and they each represent something deeper and uglier. I’ll say it again: my mum is a genius.
No patent shoes. No white socks. No trainers.
Mum swears blind she didn’t do this, but I distinctly remember our GP telling us that trainers were bad for our feet (?!?) and we were, like my nodding mother had said, better off in Dunlop plimsoles (again, ?!?!). Mum also said white socks were impractical. And the shoes with the key in the bottom were too pricey. Plus they were made by Clarks and we were only allowed Startrites. Now I totally agree. Not that her batshit theories were true but because I see their motivation: she is a snob and so am I.
My children are deprived of the modern equivalents: no shaved heads, no Disney bed sheets, no football tops. Pure snobbery.
So, mum, I am sorry and you were right. Please wait by the phone for the teen years: it’ll be ringing off the hook with me begging for forgiveness.
For 16 years this city has been home. It’s my longest relationship and one of my deepest loves.
I free-wheeled home from the pub the other night, squiffy on cocktails and friendship, and the streets were empty and the fog was fizzing in the lamplight and each street and landmark held a memory. House shares, parties, and first dates from my university years. House viewings, play dates and dinner parties from my adulthood.
This city is a map of my life and it guided me from teenager to mother of two. It’s the funkiest nerdy place I’ve ever known and the cosiest city imaginable. I feel this place in my bones and being and I’m going to miss being part of its gang. Us Olivers are on the move, but I’m leaving a bit of my heart behind.
Ms Millar is not only my job share, a bloody good friend and heir to our children when AO and I finally throttle each other, she’s also the kind of teacher and mother I aspire to be. I asked her to write a guest post because I hoped to get an insight in to how to be more like her. And, because she’s kind and generous, she agreed. And, because she’s a BUGGER, she wrote about me. And because she’s a GENIUS, she’s done so in a way that means I can’t go all squeamish and modest and not post it. Man, she’s good. I am going to share it, though, because it’s funny and thoughtful and sentimental (like its writer) and because it celebrates my most treasured and precious thing: female friendship.
When Ms O asked me to write a guest blog, it got me thinking about our relationship. I’m sure she wasn’t anticipating this and I know how much she hates it whenever anyone says anything nice about her, but here goes…
She is my work wife; my better half, and I count myself incredibly lucky that we are both equally lazy/disorganised/impatient with irritating teenagers one minute and bowled over at their unique way of seeing the world the next. But obviously, she’s so much more than that. I count her and her brood as family and I’m pretty sure there’s nobody else in the world that I’ve shared (overshared) more inappropriate information with. Pregnancy solidified our bond – finding out that we were both due to have our babies within days of each other remains one of my fondest memories (perhaps even more fond than actually finding out I was pregnant?!) The car journey to our weekly pregnancy yoga session was the highlight of my week during those tricky ten months. It was as if we stored up every single weird pregnancy question we had for that five minute journey. As soon as the car door shut, I’d be asking about all the strange symptoms I’d had and she’d let out all the wind she’d been keeping in all day. We’d talk about how inadequate we felt that we didn’t ‘talk’ to our bumps or really even love them yet – the kind of stuff that you worry about being judged for but feel so massively relieved when someone else says ‘me too’. She was the first person to get me out the house after my baby was born and she was the first and pretty much only person I ever truly told how hard I was finding it all. We laughed inappropriately and tested our pelvic floors to the max (I think we both failed…) at her son’s poo face and survived maternity leave together with the mantra ‘It’s fine, they don’t remember anything at this age…’ I think we’re probably riding our luck with this one now, nearly five years later but I do know what I remember – feeling pretty damn lucky to have someone like her to share this all with
I know Ms O will be cross that I’ve spent my blog saying nice things about her, but it’s easy to forget how lucky we are to have also been given the chance to work together. Not just that, but we’ve achieved promotions together (I think we both still can’t believe that we have an actual office!) and done our absolute best to make sense of the work/life balance, even if we still don’t have it all figured out. Basically, I count myself incredibly lucky that my work wife is also my life wife. Even if we do know far too much about each other…