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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

1. Feeding the baby, I realise that this is a beautiful thing, that we’re lucky enough to do together several times a day.

2. At the park with two little preschooler friends. We all play together. I ride on the seesaw with my friend’s son; every time I check whether he’s had enough and wants to get off, he replies with a firm “No”, and we bounce for about 15 minutes, talking about planes and lawnmowers and watches. Baby is in the sling on my back and bounces off to sleep. Later we’re playing and my four-year-old friend pulls me around by the hand, looking for the pirate captain’s missing brother in jellyfish-infested waters.

3. Toddler’s new CD’s arrive. Instead of listening to Paddington in the car (again!) we have Winnie the Pooh, read by Alan Bennett. The children both fall asleep and I carry on listening regardless.

4. Teatime. More creative playing with food. Perhaps I should discourage this, but at the moment I love it. His pieces of fishfinger are arranged into a caterpillar, a bird, an elephant (“here’s it’s head, Mummy, and here’s it’s toes”), a frog, and a kangaroo. He’s so inventive and full of ideas.

5. Baby is becoming an expert at the “How big is he..? This big!” game. He finds it utterly hilarious.

6. I make plans for Husband and I to go for lunch in a couple of weeks, by ourselves.

7. Husband gets up with Baby and I sleep soundly until 9.00 am.

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Here’s something you won’t hear me (or any other liberal, leftwing feminist) say very often: I read an article that I liked and agreed with in the Daily Mail. The article, ‘Not now, Darling, Mummy’s Tweeting‘, unsurprisingly stirred up a lot of discussion amongst the mothers I follow on Twitter. Understandably, people felt defensive. The article has a strong headline and some of the tone is harsh. ‘Neglect’ is a very strong term and nobody wants to be accused of neglecting their children. But look beyond the moments of harsh rhetoric and I think that Liz Fraser makes an important point.

Since I acquired my iPhone around 2 years ago, my craving for constant information has become increasingly persistent. First thing I do when I wake up is check my email. Then I check Twitter. I look at the Guardian iPhone app, my RSS reader, and most recently, Instagram. Whenever I get a spare five minutes I repeat the whole process, checking all of these for updates repeatedly through the day. While I eat my breakfast I scroll through Twitter; sometimes I tweet, but often I’m just reading what everyone else is up to. The thought that there are people out there, conversing with each other, and that I might be missing out on the latest must-read blog post or bit of juicy gossip makes me a little nervous. As I potter through the day, my internal monologue converts my thoughts into concise, faintly amusing tweets.

All of this didn’t worry me too much. There are a lot of positives to being online: before I had my iPhone I just wouldn’t have had time to read the news (with a toddler who wants to be involved in everything I do and baby who likes to get up to mischief, using a laptop or desktop through the day with my kids is a near-impossibility). Twitter has connected me with some fantastic people: creative, funny, interesting and supportive. Blogging has given me a new layer of purpose and fortified my sense of self.

But recently there have been times when I’ve been sucked into Twitter too much. When my two-year-old is saying “Mummy, put your telephone down. Mummy, don’t send a message”, it’s a big reminder where my priorities should lie.

Coincidentally, just two days ago, I imposed a new rule in our house: no TV between 10.00 and 4.30. I’d been giving in to requests for Cbeebies too often and our TV time had crept up and up. It’s actually worked surprisingly well – giving a firm rule seems to have removed a lot of the “I want Cbeebies”, “No”, “I want Cbeebies”, “No”, “I want Cbeebies”, “No”… [repeat ad infinitum] that had previously plagued our days at home. But a side-effect of this has been that I can’t spend the time I used to hanging out on Twitter, or otherwise absorbed online. We’ve spent more time keeping each other entertained, and today has been surprisingly peaceful.

Dealing with demands for attention from your kids can become a vicious circle. Sometimes I find that the more they demand attention, the more desperate I get for five minutes to myself, but of course they sense this and their demands become more persistent. Sometimes trying to get that online fix causes more of the stress I’m trying to avoid. Snatching five minutes to catch up on Twitter while the TV blared in the background was supposed to give me a chance for peace and quiet, but the results are often more chaotic.

Some of the points in the article seemed exaggerated. The image of “playgrounds and toddler groups suddenly being full of parents not playing with their children, but texting friends, or chatting on the phone” doesn’t ring true to me – I was at toddler group this morning and can’t recall seeing one person on their phone; we all talked to each other and talked to our kids. The sort of ‘neglect’ and ‘damaged children’ that the psychologists talked about represent rare and extreme cases.

However, I really agree with the overall point of the article. It is important to spend time with your kids, and give them the respect and attention they deserve. Some of the conversation I saw on Twitter today seemed to interpret the article as “if you’re on Twitter, you’re a crap mother”, but that isn’t what I got from it at all. Liz Fraser admitted that she’s just as bad as the rest of us, and worries that she spends too much time online herself. I thought her tone was thoughtful and supportive.

It seems that spending time online is just one more aspect of the constant motherly conflict and guilt – balancing working with caring for your children, defining yourself as a person and fulfilling your role as a mother. Personally, I really appreciated the reminder to appreciate my time with my children and balance my priorities.

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1. At a ‘playdate’. The dressing up box comes out and Toddler actually wants to dress up (this is a first). He’s a cowboy with a hat and waistcoat, riding on the little furry rocking horse. He’s a knight in shining armour, complete with helmet, although we leave the long wooden sword in the box for another day.

2. Making biscuits. I’m a bit fraught before we even start, so when Toddler knocks the bowl off the scales and spills flour and cocoa powder over the table, I get a bit cross. “What are we going to do now?” I snap, angrily. “Wipe it up,” he replies. Of course. What else could we do but wipe it up, forget about it and carry on?

3. Baby has a nice long nap this morning, so Toddler and I fit in some jigsaw time. When it comes to the Gruffalo jigsaw he says “You do that one, Mummy,” but then, as usual, he ‘helps’ me and does the whole thing himself with very little input. “I do these jigsaws really fast, Mummy.”

4. At home, Husband calls to ask me to turn on the computer. He needs to access it remotely from work to copy some files. As we potter around I see folders flashing up on the screen and the cursor whizzing around. When I next look, he’s written a little message to us.

5. At my Grandma and Granddad’s house. Granddad has made salmon fishcakes for the boys – he’s scaled down the recipe, but there’s no way to scale down ‘one egg’ so the fishcakes are kind of omlette-like. The boys love them and eat them with gusto.

6. I watch the last episode of Michel Roux’s Service, and shed a tear when he awards the final scholarship.

7. Toddler is going out with Daddy. I ask him for a kiss and a cuddle goodbye. He decides he wants to give Baby a kiss and a cuddle too. As Toddler and Daddy leave, Baby crawls at light speed to the back door to see them off, and when I pick him up he waves goodbye.

These Seven Beautiful Things are taken from my Three Beautiful Things posterous blog, where I post three beautiful things every day.

I’ve been posting three beautiful things every day for four weeks now and I haven’t missed a day. Sometimes it’s been hard to think of three things (especially this Tuesday) but most of the time I have plenty of moments that have made me smile. It’s struck me that a lot of my beautiful things are very similar – there’s lots of brotherly love, lots of baby development and lots of nice evening meals and wine. Lots of simple pleasures.

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1. Lying in bed feeding the baby, I remember a time when the length from the top of his head to his toes was less than the current length from head to bum.

2. After a disastrous bedtime with baby and toddler both demanding attention and each keeping the other awake, I finally get the baby off to sleep. Toddler and I have a cuddle in bed; he tells me he’s my friend and he loves me. He falls asleep smiling.

3. We’re very lucky to get the vast majority of our kids’ clothes as hand-me-downs or gifts. Today the toddler actually wears something that I’ve bought and chosen for him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. On his way to bed, my husband takes time to stop and tell me that he loves me.

5. The toddler tells me that Daddy is old, but Mummy is young.

6. I throw caution and frugality to the wind and add both chicken and bacon to the pasta sauce.

7. We go to a birthday party. The cake is covered in fondant icing; to get a vivid ‘lego brick’ colour, it’s been painted with neat food colouring. When we eat it, our fingers, lips, teeth and tongues turn bright blue.

 

These Seven Beautiful Things are taken from my Three Beautiful Things posterous blog, where I post three beautiful things every day.

 

This post is also linked up to the British Mummy Bloggers’ January Blog Hop. You can follow the links to read a selection of funny, interesting and diverse posts from a host of brilliant bloggers.

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“I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy…”

*baby whinges. baby rubs his eyes*

ok, well if you can stay downstairs and be quiet while I put the baby to sleep, then you can have my undivided attention and we can do whatever you want

“I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy…”

well then just be quiet for five minutes, so I can put the baby to sleep

“No no NO my wake him up”

but if you give me a minute’s peace, you can have a whole hour

“I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy…”

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Ranting away about gifts over Christmas, I think I’ve worked out clearly where I stand on the ethics of spending on gifts. I think that everyone should have the right to buy whatever they like, for themselves and for others. If they want to spend a large proportion of their wages (or indeed a small proportion of a very large wage) on hundreds of pounds worth of presents for their children, they should be free to do so. However, I am also free to make the judgement that excessive spending is morally wrong. I can judge that they’ve made a bad choice.

Personally, I don’t think that spending hundreds of pounds on gifts for young children is necessary. There are only so many toys they can play with and appreciate, only so many clothes they can wear. I’m nowhere near perfect but I think that living sustainably is important, and I think that buying big pieces of plastic for little babies who don’t care either way and would be happy to play with a cardboard box (or, indeed, with their older siblings’ outgrown toys) is wasteful on a lot of levels. However, not everybody agrees with me; people can and do choose to buy all manner of ‘stuff’. Logically, morally, I have to be cool with that.

The same applies to parenting choices. I choose to raise my children in an ‘attached’ way: I breastfeed, I carry my baby in a sling rather than a buggy, he sleeps in bed with me at night and often naps in a sling in the daytime (now that he’s bigger, mostly on my back in a Rose and Rebellion). I don’t choose to leave my children to cry (obviously sometimes it can’t be helped, but I’d never ever deliberately leave them to ‘cry it out’).

Again, not everyone agrees with me. I saw somebody on Twitter tonight saying that they were about to start ‘sleep training’ their 17 week old son. He was planning to use ‘controlled crying’. I think that what he’s planning is horribly cruel: teaching a tiny baby that nobody will come when he cries, so that he finally gives up and stops crying. But obviously some parents think it’s a good idea: teaching a tiny baby to fall asleep by himself so that everyone can get a solid night’s sleep and be well-rested for daytime. Short term pain, long term gain?

There’s no absolute to decide who’s right. Obviously I think I’m right, or I wouldn’t be parenting the way I am. But that doesn’t mean I am right. If I want to say “people shouldn’t be allowed to make this choice for their babies” then there’s no logical reason why the ‘rule’ couldn’t be “people shouldn’t be allowed to co-sleep” or “babies must be independent from week 1”. I want the freedom to parent the way I choose, so I have to allow everyone that freedom.

My instinct was to say to the guy on Twitter “Are you crazy? Why would you want to train a tiny helpless mammal to sleep in his own room by himself all night?!”. But I wouldn’t appreciate it if people started challenging my parenting choices. If I want the right to raise my child the way I choose, I have to afford that right to everyone else. So I said nothing. I just try to carry on doing my thing with my kids, tend to gravitate towards like-minded people, and relax about everyone else.

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My Plans for 2011

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. If something’s worth doing, why wait for the stroke of midnight on 31st December to start doing it? Surely you should be doing it anyway? At the same time, I do think it’s good to have goals… an idea of some things I’d like to have achieved by this time next year. Here, inspired in part by a great post on a blog I’ve recently discovered (and love), is my plan for 2011.

 

I’m doing the Great North Run. I saw my brother turn into a committed runner in 2009 while training for this race. He’s kept it up, racing again in 2010. One of my best friends ran this year too. I went along to watch the race and the atmosphere was amazing. I said at the time that I’d love to be part of it, and now that my baby is getting older and I’m not planning another, there’s no reason why 2011 can’t be my year. I’ll be starting as a complete beginner, but hey, the race isn’t until September. Bring it on!

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about starting this blog is developing an interest in photography. I’ve taken part in the Gallery and more recently in Silent Sunday and because of this I’ve started taking a lot more photos in general. I never saw myself as a photographer, especially as my husband has studied photography and takes great shots himself; I’d never needed to pick up the camera, but here I am and I love it. I bought myself a photography guide and I’ll be working through it in 2011, hopefully resulting in lots of brilliant photographs.

I’d like to get a job. I’ve been at home with my kids (well, just the one at first!) for two and a half years now. There are plenty of moments that I love, but I’d like to add something else to the picture. Being in the workplace is a chance to be yourself, to take on a role totally unrelated to that of wife or mother. I’ve had one job interview this month and although I didn’t get the job, I got some really useful feedback that I hope will help me come across as well as I can next time. I don’t know if it’ll be part time or full time, or quite where it will be, but one day soon I will have a job.

I’d like a family holiday this year. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Ok, I don’t think I could cope with a baby and a toddler (or, as we’ll have by the summer, a tiny toddler and a preschooler) in a tent, but a little cottage or a cheap and cheerful hotel will do. Definitely in the UK is fine by me, and ideally not more than three hours from home! I just want us to have a few days (ideally a week) away together, relaxing, playing and having fun.

I hope that amongst all this, I’ll be able to carve out some time to just think. Maybe while I’m out running I’ll find the space to breathe, to nourish ideas and order and understand my thoughts. I want to make some progress on my philosophical quest: figuring out what being in the world is all about, and making sure I do it properly. Experiencing beauty; making connections with people, places, thoughts and things; expressing yourself; leaving an imprint… do these things have anything to do with the crucial nature of existing? When I was a philosophy student I liked analytical philosophy: truth, and how to express the nature of existence in the form of a mathematical equation (kind of). I dabbled a little in continental philosophy, but was scared by what I saw as vagueness and lack of clarity. But now I’m not so sure. I’m planning to start by going back to Heidegger. If I learn anything, I’ll tell you.

A crucial part of this quest to understand being, and to BE, is this blog. Recording these snippets of life, insights, thoughts and snapshots has helped me to know myself a little better. Whatever else happens, I’ll definitely still be blogging in 2011.

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