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Like a Switch

As you know, I am, first and foremost, a SAHM (that is, Stay At Home Mum to those of you who don’t know interweb lingo). I always felt drawn to motherhood, and it was a given that I would be a SAHM, even if only for a short period.

I loved it.

Until … I didn’t.

It was as though a switch had been flicked. One day, I was perfectly content being at home with the kids. The next day, I was not.

As luck (?!) would have it, this switch was activated the same time Mr T got his work transfer, resulting in us moving six hundred bazillion miles away from where we lived.

As soon as we had arrived here and the kids were settled in school, I began to search for work, and didn’t have much success. The glaringly obvious voids on my CV, combined with my eclectic work history (picking up work in between kids) and large variety of experience (from entry-level to management) worked against me, especially in a tricky and competitive market for even the most basic of jobs.

And so, I found myself still a SAHM. Except, I was increasingly shifting away from the nice, easygoing SAHM, and drifting towards the moody, grouchy, yell-y SAHM. A mum I did not want to be. A mum my kids didn’t deserve.

In November I got a part time job, and my other work, my passion, my dream job, is finally taking off as well. But I am still, primarily, that goddamn SAHM.

BabyGirl turns three on Sunday. In two days, my baby will be three. Which means, on Monday, she starts preschool. 20 hours a week, she will be going to preschool. I will be working two of those days, and the other two days I will have, for the first time in nearly seven years, uncommitted time without children. People are asking me, “Are you ok with her going for that many hours?”. People are saying to me, “Oh, you must be so sad that your baby is growing up!”.

Well, yes, I am, I suppose, a little sad at the prospect that my baby is growing up. But no – I’m not sad she is starting preschool. I’m am ok with her starting preschool.

You see (and I feel it important to mention at this stage, that this is very hard and upsetting for me to write) – there have been moments, snippets, times, when I have looked at my kids and thought, “Do you know what? I don’t like you. I’m sick of you. Go away. Leave me alone”. I’ve never said as much to them, but I’ve come close. And it kills me. I never wanted to become that mum who doesn’t like her kids. I mean, I’ll always love them, that goes without saying. But I would like to like them as well.

I want to enjoy my kids, to laugh with them and play. We still do those things, but they are increasingly far and few between.

I need to be apart from my kids, so I can have the opportunity to miss them.

I need to be away from them long enough that they miss me, and see me as more than that lady in the house who does all the stuff for them.

When that switch flicked off nearly a year ago, the light, the spark, began to fade. Finally, at last, with BabyGirl starting preschool in three days, I can see the light again.

I need to regain myself, so I can be the best mum I can be to my kids.

Because that’s the mum they deserve.

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2

My House is a Mess

Today, for a change (sarcasm) my house is a mess. A pig sty. It’s Day Two of the school hols, and there is shit (for lack of a better word) every where. Books. Toys. Clothes. Spoons. Everywhere.

And, it’s midday and so far I’ve hung two loads of washing, brought in two loads, changed the sheets and made four beds, cleaned the kitchen, put on the dishwasher and tidied up the bathroom. Incidentally, I’ve also suggested to Princess that she might like to tidy her room – she very politely commented, without a shred of irony or snark, “You actually don’t need to tell me, Mum – I’ve already started”.

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Right.

But, here’s the thing.

I need, we need, to stop apologising for the state of our houses. If someone was to come over unannounced today, I would be horrified and embarrased at the state of my house. But why? It’s not hygienically dirty. I vacuumed yesterday, though you wouldn’t know it to look at it. The kids are, by-and-large, wearing clothing. Well, pyjamas at least. And it’s not as though I’ve been sitting on my toosh perusing Facebook all morning.  Or sitting on my bed watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Ok, I did that for a little bit.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – I get why we tidy houses. Clean houses are so much nicer to be in. I feel that, I really do. I get such an immense sense of pleasure when my house is spotless. So much, in fact, that I take photos and send them to people. Literally to say, “look! My house is clean!”.

Because, it only ever lasts a day, tops. And I think that’s actually ok?

Our house has three kids in it. Three kids who like to read, play with lego, play with dolls, play toy kitchens. This house also has a mum in it. A mum who doesn’t want to spend her entire day constantly cleaning up after said children.

If someone tells me they are coming over, I clean the house. I make it look presentable – often by relocating the junk to another room, to be honest. And I do this because I know that the cleanliness of my house reflects on me. But what I don’t like, is the feeling that the cleanliness of my house reflects on me as a mother.

We already have so much damn pressure put on us to be perfect mothers. Our kids should be well behaved. They should be tidy and clean. They should be polite. Our house should be tidy.

So, I tidy my house when someone is coming over. I even spend hours tidying, and then pull the old line, “excuse the mess”, knowing full well that the house is cleaner than it has been in weeks.

But, what if there is an emergency? And I have to call someone to come over in a rush? My house probably won’t be tidy. It will be clean, but not necessarily tidy. And, if I can’t allow someone to see my house in it’s true state, then I feel like that says more about them, than me.

If a person comes into your house and judges you (and I know, pre-kids I was well guilty of it myself), then do you really want that person in your house?

I guess my point is this – I work hard at home. Very little of my time is actually spent sitting down doing nothing. In fact, as I type this, I have a 2 year clambering over me, and I’ve left my chair twice now to clean up a spill or fetch a drink of water or take a child to the toilet. Yet, my house still looks like a bombsite. I shouldn’t have to apologise for that. What I should apologise for, is getting angry at my kids when they dare to walk into a room I’ve just cleaned. How dare they think they can live in this house? That’s not the mum I want to be.

You know what? My kids are happy. We are having an at-home day. A PJ day. A messy house day.

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And that’s ok.

 

0

How To Toilet Train Your Child 101

Hello and welcome.

Today’s lesson is how to toilet train your child.

I use, as a shining example, my 2 year old daughter, BabyGirl. She is toilet trained, both day and night. That’s right, mums and dads and random others, she is completely, utterly toilet trained and she is not even three years old.

“But tell us, Fantastic Mrs T, how on earth did you achieve such a feat, such an extraordinary (typed in a fancy British accent, fyi) level of parenting mastery?”

Ok, because I like you all, I’m going to tell you.

I.

 

Did.

 

 

Nothing.

Wait – what? Nothing? As in, nil? Nada? Nothing? 

Yup. Ok, so I’ll climb down from my pedestal now. Alright, I’ll take off my Perfect Mother crown too. You want the medal back too? Fine.

It’s true – BabyGirl is, and has been for some time now, completely dry, both day and night. And, yes – we essentially did nothing. We didn’t force her, we just let her do what she was ready to do. And, as luck would have it, she happens to be a relatively early toileter.

As well you know, she is our third child. So, I was entirely Not Bothered about whether or not she toilet trained. The fact is, she has never been a heavy wetter, and holds pee like a camel. Seriously – this kid goes hours without peeing. Not I. Oh no. More often than not, it’s her waiting for me in public loos. I won’t lie, I use her as an excuse. Often. Shhhh.

But I digress.

Here’s the thing that I’ve learned from all this parenting bizzo – kids learn things at different times, at different paces, and to compare any two children is like comparing the gestation periods of animals. We don’t criticise the elephant for her 18 month gestation period (good LORD, imagine that!) for being considerably longer than, say, the gestation period of a dog (which, btw, is 58-68 days)(you are welcome). Why? Because it’s nature.

Toilet training, too, is, by-and-large, nature. The nature of the child. Princess first showed interest in toilet training when she was quite young, around the 18 month mark. However, she wasn’t comfortably, go-out-without-a-nappy-and-three-spare-changes-of-clothes dry until well after her third birthday. And, she was still wetting her bed consistently at six years old. BoyChild went through a wonderfully enjoyable period (sarcasm) of pooping and peeing all over the house between ages 3 and 3 1/2, and then suddenly was just dry, day and night in the same week. Thank heavens. And, as mentioned, BabyGirl is dry, day and night, before she is three.

Each child is different.

So, really, my advice for toilet training, is that I have no real advice. Except, perhaps, let nature take it’s course. Introduce your child to the concept of using a toilet (let’s be honest, we all share the damn toilet room with them anyway, you might as well tell them what you are doing in there). Once you take the tentative step towards letting them leave the house without a nappy, pack plenty of spare clothes and don’t look back. They will absolutely pee all over a store floor at least once. You will die of embarrassment and not go back into that store for at least a month after, utilising their online store and delivery service instead. But then, you move on.

These are all learning steps, for you and your child (and also, for the surly store lady who had to clean up the puddle)(she needed a lesson in being nice to the mother whose child accidentally pee’d all over the floor, and also perhaps a lesson in gratitude that it wasn’t poop).

I am happy to announce that we have now graduated from the training toilet seat to using the real, adult seat. And, great news – she’s only fallen in the loo once. Oh, how I laughed helped her out like a responsible mother.

And that, ladies and fellas, concludes my lesson in Parenting today.

The next lesson will be on how to successfully have three children go to bed nicely and sleep through the night.

When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

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8

Today I Failed

Today, I failed at being a mum, on epic levels.

No, this isn’t a light post about #parentfails because my kid went to school with toothpaste all over his tshirt, picking at it like it’s a morning snack. Although, that did happen today.

This is about me, feeling like I actually, genuinely, did a shit job as a mum today.

There are days when things go wrong, and you shake them off and get on with your day.

There are days when the kids are little horrors, and you threaten to send them to boarding school, threaten to take away everything they own, threaten to cancel Easter, but then you get on with your day.

Today was not that day.

Last night, BabyGirl did her usual falling-asleep-on-me at about 9pm. Awesome. I carried her bed, but somewhere between the living room and her bedroom, she woke up. And considered that her sleep for the night. All ten minutes of it.

And so, we were up for the night.

By midnight, I was losing my mind. I was claustrophobic from all the touching and contact from her. I needed five minutes of “me time”. I was nearly in tears, and found myself getting dangerously frustrated with her. So, I took myself to bed (BabyGirl in tow), turned off all the lights, and lay in my bed ignoring her as she played with her farm animals beside me. Eventually, at about 12:30pm, she crawled onto my lap and fell asleep. At about 12:31, Princess came into my room. I literally cried.

By 12:45 I had both of the girls into their own beds, but was too wound up to sleep, so watched an hour of trash tv before eventually nodding off myself. Another long night of kids waking me (“I need your toilet” … “I’m cold” … “I’m hot” .. “My bed fell over” … “I like trains” … ) we fell out of bed about 7:30.

Every morning is a challenge in our house. Getting three kids dressed, lunches made, teeth brushed, it’s all go from start to finish. But today, I was extraordinarily Over It. No patience to spare in the T household, at all. Not one iota.

So, when I asked Princess for the umpteenth time, to please get dressed, and she said “NO!”, and when BoyChild whined to me that he couldn’t find a video on the iPad, and when I made the wrong shaped toast, and when BabyGirl didn’t want to get out of bed, I screamed. I swore. I yelled. I did everything I pride myself in never doing as a mum. And then, I sat on the floor and I sobbed.

But, there was no time for that carry on. So I picked myself up, and dragged the kids out the door and into the car. I think, by this time, the kids had picked up that Mum wasn’t to be messed with today, because they were unusually nice in the car. Which I didn’t like, because I don’t want my kids to be scared of me, and that’s how I felt they were this morning.

When we got out of the car, I picked Princess up, kissed her and whispered in her ear that I loved her. She whispered back, “I know you do mum, put me down”. I did the same to BoyChild (“I like trains, Mum. I like kisses too) and BabyGirl (“Don’t kiss me. Yuk”).

Once the older kids were in class, BabyGirl and I headed back to the car. She sat in her seat and chatted about mountains and cats. I sat in the drivers seat with my head in my hands, and took very deep breaths.

It’s now midday and I feel a bit better. Not great, to be honest. I’m exhausted, both physically and emotionally. I need sleep, and I need a break from the kids.

But, I also feel like this morning was the tipping point. The moment when the slate gets overloaded, and flips over. Resulting in a clear slate on the other side. Shortly I will go for a walk – with any luck, BabyGirl will sleep in the pram, I will put in my headphones and ignore the world. And when the kids get home from school, hopefully the slate will be clear and ready to start afresh.

Why did I write this today? I’ve no idea. I guess I wanted to get it out there – there are days when I love parenting, there are days when things go wrong, and then there are the actual, legitimately horrible days when you actually feel like a failure.

It’s all part and parcel of the job, I guess.

 

 

 

1

The elusive Sleeping Through

When you have a newborn baby, one of the most talked about topics is whether they are sleeping through the night. Which, in itself, is a ridiculously unattainable goal – we consider “sleeping through” to be bedtime till awake time (say, 6pm – 8am, how awesome would that be?!) but the “technical” definition is 6 hours without waking. So, by definition, could be 2am – 8am. Not awesome.

Your little baby wakes two hourly. Then four hourly. Then, if you have a super great sleeper like Princess was (note: was), by 6 weeks she will be sleeping 10-12 hours uninterrupted. I know, right?! She was such a good sleeper, that we (bless our naive cotton socks) asked our doctor if we should be concerned. If only we knew. If only we knew.

On the flipside, BoyChild was a horrendous sleeper. In his first year, he didn’t sleep more than four goddam hours E.V.E.R. I understand why they use sleep interruption as torture. I get it. I feel for anyone who has to be subjected to that. I’m confident that Mr T and I both lost a large portion of our sanity that year. I’m not overly confident mine ever came back.

And then, you have BabyGirl. This amazing baby slept twelve hours at a time, from a very, very young age. That’s great, I hear you say. Well, no. She slept the wrong twelve hours. She would stay up until 1am, 2am and then crash out for 12 hours. Which is all well and good except for, oh, you know, the other people in the family who had places to be at 9am.

Sleeping through the night. Does it actually exist? I found myself lying in bed at 4am last night, staring at the ceiling, asking myself this very question.

Kids, the little sneaks, they are so good at lulling us parents into a false sense of security. Suddenly, without warning, you will realise that, holy moly, the kids are all sleeping through. They go to bed at 7:30, and by 9:30 you realise they are all asleep, and you and other half haven’t spoken in two hours. You look at the peculiar person sitting across the room. You wave. He waves. You say, “hello”. He takes off his headphones, pauses his computer game, and says “what? did you say something?”. So romantic. So romantic.

Often we will have a run of, say, a week where all three kids sleep properly. Naturally, we don’t notice until they stop, and we realise how easy we have had it.

I wonder, I do – at what age will I actually ever sleep through the night again? I mean, our kids are past that text book age bracket of waking in the night for actual legitimate reasons. You know, like needing to be fed, or have their nappies changed.

To give you an idea of the sleeplessness I experience, this is a snapshot of my night last night.

7:oopm. BoyChild goes to bed.

7:30pm. Princess goes to bed.

7:40pm. Princess goes back to bed.

7:46pm. Princess GET BACK TO BED I SWEAR TO ALL THAT IS HOLY WHERE THE HECK ARE YOUR PYJAMAS?!

8:00pm. BabyGirl starts her nightly ritual of *ahem* self soothing to sleep. On my leg.

9:00pm. BabyGirl falls asleep hard. I slip a nappy on her and carry her to bed. Thank goodness she is such a deep sleeper.

11:00pm. I head to bed. I am so accustomed to kids staying up until all hours that even when they do go to bed early, I don’t.

12:00pm. I turn off Toddlers and Tiaras and go to sleep.

12:30am. BoyChild sleeptalks.

1:15am. BabyGirl falls out of bed.

1:30am. Princess sneaks into my bed.

1:50am. I notice Princess is in my bed and carry her back to her room.

2:45am. I leave Princess’s room after sitting next to her until she falls asleep.

4:20am. BoyChild decides to use my ensuite. He turns on my bedroom light, then the bathroom light. Pees. Flushes. Washes his hands with soap. Dries his hands. Turns off bathroom light. Turns off my bedroom light. Cries that it is dark and can I please take him to his room?

6:50am. Boychild is up for the day. He quietly tells me he is awake and then disappears into the living room.

7:28am. Princess crawls into my bed. I tell her to go back to her own bed. She says it’s day time. I say she is mistaken.

7:30am. My alarm goes off. FML.

 

Coffee.

Coffee is the answer to your question.

Coffee is always the answer.

I am holding out hope that, when all three kids are somewhere between the ages they are now, and the age when they start going out at night, there will be a year or so when I might sleep like a normal human being. Because, once they hit their teens, I suspect the sleeplessness will rev up again. Worrying about them, about what they are up to, about them getting home safely. I now understand why, when I got “mildly intoxicated” as a teen, I staggered into the living room to find my parents sitting there, just patiently waiting. “I think I’m in trouble” I slurred, before turning and smacking clean into the wall. My parents, they knew their shit.

And, once the kids leave home, will I sleep then? Or will I be so used to waking, that I will naturally wake at odd hours? Lets be honest, will my bladder ever sustain a full night’s sleep? I doubt it.

Sleeping through the night? I fear that ship has sailed. Oh, to return to my 20s when husband and I would sleep till noon. What’s it like, I wonder, waking when you want to as opposed to when a smaller version of yourself tells you you should wake up?

Who the heck knows.

 

 

 

 

 

1

Don’t Be A Dick.

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To all my children, on this fine day

As I sit here with coffee, watching you play

I think about your life, all the impressions you’ll make

And how I can teach you which pathway to take

So here, my dear cherubs, are some words of advice

Take them on board or discard them if you like

But please take this one snippet, if nothing else sticks

Be kind, be nice, and don’t be a dick

Be generous, courteous, put others first

Take care of the needy, nurture those who are hurt

Don’t be shy with your hugs, don’t be guarded with your smile

You’ll be surprised in your life, a nice grin goes a mile

You’ll get hurt, that’s for certain – it’ll suck, that’s for sure

But learn and move on as you close that old door

It’s ok to be angry, to yell and to scream

It’s ok to be sad but please, don’t be mean

Because the person you are is the person you’ll be

And how you live is reflective of the positive, you see

So be courageous and strong, stand proud and think quick

And if all else does fail, please – don’t be a dick.

You will rise and you’ll fall; you’ll laugh and you’ll cry

You’ll grow from adversity often not knowing why

things have happened to you in this way or that

sometimes life makes as much sense as a squid in a hat

But I say it again, and I’ll keep going on

Be proud of yourself. Be kind and be strong.

I’ll love you regardless of choices you make

I hope that I’ve taught you well for everyone’s sake

I’ll stand by you proudly through thin times and thick

But my dear child, I ask again – please, don’t be a dick.

Thanks, love.

Mum xx

 

 

 

 

 

4

Does it get any easier?

The other day I read an article about Prince William and parenting. In it, he talks about little George and Charlotte, and quips, “Does it get easier?”.

At the time, I laughed, said “Bless you, Prince William” out loud, and then moved on to whatever chaos was ensuing in my house.

Last night, as I sat next to Princess’s bed at 1am, blocking her from leaving the room while simultaneously keeping her quiet and shushing BabyGirl who was also stirring, thanks entirely to Princess and her midnight theatrics about spiders in her bed and the 643 reasons why she can’t sleep in her room any more, I thought about Prince William again. And whether it gets easier.

No, Wills, my buddy – it does not. It changes, that’s certain. And we adapt to the way things needs to be done. But easier? Nope.

As kids grow, their needs change and they enter into new phases and stages. And with each new stage and phase comes new challenges.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I feel as though the older my kids get, the less I know about this parenting business. Princess is going through a particularly anxious stage at present, and I am the first to put my  hand up and say, “I have no freakin idea how to deal with this”. You want the best outcome for your kids, so they learn and grow and don’t end up damaged as a direct result of your parenting shortcomings. No pressure or anything.

There is so much out there on social media about how to parent “right”. Don’t tell your daughter she is pretty, lest she become obsessed or self conscious about her looks. Remember to tell your child these 434 different things each day, to ensure they know you love them and are proud of them. Don’t tease your kids, don’t lie to them, don’t tell them the truth, don’t pull the finger at them behind their back as they stomp away. Make sure your child is nurtured and cuddled (but NOT coddled). No pressure or anything.

BabyGirl has entered the awesome phase of screaming when things don’t go her way, regardless of where we are. Today I had the nerve to take Princess to her classroom at school, instead of taking her to another, random classroom that BabyGirl decided should be Princess’s classroom. The screams were enough to draw a teacher from a nearby class. She’s fine, I flustered. Just leave her, she’s fine. Please, don’t judge me, don’t tell her it’s ok, just leave her. She’s fine. I’m fine. I’m not crying. You are crying.

On Monday I had to carry Princess into her classroom, this time it was her who was screaming the place down. Soon I’ll be known as The Mother With Kids Who Scream. Or, The Mother Who Drinks A Lot. Or The Mother Who Sits In Her Car After Drop Off, Laughing Or Crying, No One Is Sure. Not Even Her.

No pressure or anything.

Wanting the best for your kids is one of the hardest, and easiest, parts of parenting. Easy because it is one of our strongest instincts as parents. Hardest because how the heck do you do it?

So, back to Prince William. Does it get easier? Well, yes. There will come a time when your kids are no longer climbing furniture and trying to kill themselves by jumping off the top of a bookshelf. There will come a time when your kids will listen when you tell them not to fight/run away/disobey you. When that time comes for me, I will let you know. There will come a time when your kids sleep through the night. It does get easier.

And then comes the time when those things are replaced by new, more challenging obstacles. And again, and again. And then comes a time when I think, as a parent, you will have to sit back and hope you have done all you can, to make your little person into a pretty okay adult.

No pressure or anything.

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