Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

June 30, 2010

One of those days - the important ones

Today my little boy grows up. Today, he graduates from his Montessori class. Today he, and his little classmates, will sing a few songs (which will inevitably reduce all the mums to tears), have a bit of a party, have one last go on the slide and we will then get into the car and drive home. We won’t be going back because from today, everything changes. The crèche that I first took my little six-month-old baby to has served its purpose. He starts school in September and we embark on an entirely new chapter in our family life.

I’ll never forget the first day I left him there. I felt utterly lost, as if one of my limbs had been removed. I pottered around the house aimlessly, checking the clock to see whether I could go and collect him yet. I think I even resorted to hoovering to pass the time. He was only there for an hour.

There are days when I have left that crèche feeling like the worst mum in the world; prising my crying son from my leg because I have to go and catch the train or I’ll be late for work – again. All I can hear as I sit on the train is his tiny voice, “Mummy, I want my mummy.”

There was the day when he proudly showed off his new baby brother. I thought he was such a big boy at the time. It was only much later that I realised he was really still a baby himself.

There were the endless days when I collected him to be told that, yet again, he’d refused to eat anything and the wonderful day when he, finally, ate every last scrap and asked for more.
There have been days when I’ve rushed back from work to collect and comfort my sick child; sunny days when we’ve strolled casually home sharing licks from an ice cream; snowy days where we’ve trudged along in our wellies and warmed up with hot chocolate back at home.

There are days when I’ve stopped and chatted idly to the other mums and days when I’ve bundled everyone into the car in a stress and screeched out of the car park because I left the oven on.

There are days when I have collected a grumpy, tired little boy who is cross with his mummy for some reason or other. There are many more days when I’ve collected a little boy who has a beaming smile, a cuddle, a kiss and a lovely picture for me.

We’ve both made some wonderful friends along the way. Hopefully friends for life, despite the fact that we’ll all be going our separate ways in the autumn.

There are many days in life when everything just stays predictably the same and there are the occasional, important days when everything suddenly changes. Today is one of those days.


June 25, 2010

Eliza Plum: Agony Mum

Well, isn't this marvellous. The terribly lovely Hot Cross Mum has let me 'borrow' her terrific blogspot page for a day every week. I'm not entirely sure what a 'blog' is, but anyhoo she has the place decorated reasonably well, so I assume she's quite respectable and doesn't attract any cyber riff-raff.

Let me introduce myself. I'm Eliza Plum, Agony Mum. This is a bit like being an Agony Aunt, but less like an aunt, and more like a mum. I spend my days offering my invaluable advice to parents in distress, whilst also ironing the occasional shirt for my husband and putting bleach into the toilets (at least the house smells like it has been cleaned). Since you are reading this, I'd like to personally thank you for dropping by. You won’t regret it, truly you won’t. As many of my regular visitors tell me, a moment spent with me feels like a lifetime spent with anyone else.

So, if you, like many parents before you, and many others to come, have a parenting problem which you are incapable of resolving on your own, even after a large G&T and a sneaky slice of Battenburg, please leave me a comment below*. It may be that the children refuse to wear anything which isn't infested with dinosaurs, or that they display a high dependency on biscuits or that they insist on doing everything all by themsevles when they clearly don't possess the necessary motor skills. Whatever the problem, I will endeavour to offer a solution, but please bear with me; there is only so much misery one woman can reasonably deal with whilst trying to maintain a jolly persona and a clean downstairs loo.

So, here's to helping. And remember, as I always say; "A problem shared is still a problem."

* call me fussy, but I do prefer that these begin with the salution, 'Dear Eliza'.


June 18, 2010

What does Daddy do?

Thanks to Karen at If I Could Escape for tagging me with this Father's Day meme which aims to shed new light on what our children really think their Daddy does every day. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure myself what my husband does every day. He has me completely baffled by his daily routine of disappearing just before the kids wake up in the morning and failure to return home before they are tucked up in bed. Hmmmm. Perhaps my four-year-old can help me out....

Q1.What does Daddy wear for work? – "Smart clothes."

Q2.Where does Daddy work? — "Erm, I don't really know." (that makes two of us then!)

Q3.What’s Daddy’s job? — "To do bands." (Daddy plays guitar in a band in his spare time - this isn't his job but hey, who am I to shatter my child's rock star image of his father).

Q4.What does Daddy do at work? — "He rings people on the telephone." (doesn't really narrow it down much, does it?)

Q5.What does Daddy do at lunch? – "He rings us to say hello."

So, we're unfortunately no closer to knowing exactly what Daddy does every day. Oh well. Maybe it's best to just leave it there and carry on pretending that he's a Secret Agent or a Superhero. Much more exciting than the truth!


June 16, 2010

You Funny Mother Bloggers, You

My four-year-old was asking me to explain the word 'describe' today. So, I described the kitchen, his bedroom and himself and then asked him to describe his brother, his dad and me. Here's what he said:

The Brother
"He has orange hair (I hastily corrected him and pointed out that it is, in fact red, RED - tut), he is quite small and he likes his cars and his teddy." A pretty accurate description.

The Daddy
"He has black hair, is very big and strong and is good at swimming." Not bad.

"Erm, quite big and carries Sam around and pushes him in his buggy." You've got to be kidding me - that's IT? That's all the description I get for my four and a half years of hard labour?

So, imagine my delight when, later in the day, I received an email telling me that I've been nominated for a Gurgle Blog Award by the lovely, brilliant and generous* people at because I'm FUNNY. That's right - funny. Ha! Stick that in your description, sonny boy.

Fellow nominee Emily at Babyrambles said of my nomination, "Of course, this comes as no surprise to me as I know Hot Cross Mum is utterly hilarious and often have to pick myself up off the floor and wipe the tears from my eyes after reading yet another of her mirth-filled post." YummyMummyNo1, also nominated, offered similar praise. "This really is one funny mummy," she said, "I can thoroughly understand her nomination." Another nominee, Pippa at A Mother's Ramblings has resorted to trash tweeting of Hot Cross Mum in a desperate bid to gain more votes for her own blog. I'm not angry with her - I can understand her envy**.

So, I would like to wish these, and all other nominees the very best as we spend the next few weeks wracking our clouded mummy brains in a desparate attempt to make our highly amusing posts even more hilarious in the ensuing comedy-fest which will see us shamelessly clamouring for the judges attention and votes. Yes, that's you I'm talking to Nifa, Tor Brierley and Ms Myleene Klaas.

Let the hilarity commence.

*yes, I'm sucking up
** the author of this post would like to point out that this paragraph may not be strictly true


June 14, 2010

How to be the perfect mum

So, I set out on this journey into motherhood with the very best of best intentions. I would be the perfect mother. I'd have boundless energy for my children and would spend my days with them merrily baking, crafting, singing nursery rhymes and running through meadows full of daisies and buttercups. Sweets would be limited to birthday parties, snacks would always be fruit, drinks would always be water, TV would be a treat on Christmas Day. And best of all, we would all snuggle into bed at the end of a fulfilling day and read bedtime stories before having profoud ‘life-lesson’ chats which would stay with my children for the rest of their lives.

Imagine my horror then when it turns out that my mummy reality is, let's just say, slightly different to this perfect ideal I aspired to. The truth is, I do a limited amount of baking and crafting because it all gets a bit too messy and out of control and I end up just getting annoyed. I sing whatever I heard last on the radio which is usually something inappropriate and crap like Lady GaGa. The nearest meadows are a long drive away and most of the time the effort involved to get everyone ready to go there just seems like too much hassle. Sweets are practically a daily occurrence. Snacks are always a biscuit. Drinks are most likely to be juice. TV is a set routine first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Bedtimes are rushed, stressful affairs where the best I can manage is a brief story, a glass of milk, a kiss and an order not to get up again because I am in desperate need of a break.

Suffice to say that I have far from lived up to my own expectations of perfection.

It’s a harsh lesson to learn that being a mum is a reality – not a Disney movie - but I've realised that it's a lesson worth learning sooner rather than later. Because this is the mother I am - not the mother I think I should be. And do you know what, despite being a bit grouchy sometimes and too knackered to ice cupcakes, I think I'm doing a bloody great job. OK, my 'mummying' may not be perfect, but it's certainly good enough. And perhaps, if we all keep reminding ourselves of that fact, rather than trying to live up to a ridiculous Hollywood ideal and beating ourselves up about the fact that we're failing, then maybe, just maybe, we can all become the perfect mum.


June 9, 2010

Why it's rubbish not being 40

I had a birthday recently. It was a significant one. No, not THAT significant one, the one before it. I turned 39. I got a few cards. Five to be precise. I like to blame this on the fact that I was on holiday in Spain for the big day, rather than on the fact that I am now SO old that no-one can actually remember when my birthday is, or how old I am so they don’t bother to send a card for fear of getting it all wrong.

“Enjoy the last year in your thirties, ha ha ha,” wrote my hilarious family and friends in the cards I did get. I hadn’t given it much thought beforehand, but reading this I realised that I may as well be teetering on the edge of a rocky headland, arms flailing in a desperate bid to stay on the cliff of my youth, rather than crash into the rocks of old age below. A few friends did politely enquire if this was ‘the big one’, scared to go all out and buy me a ‘Life Begins’ card for fear of insulting me a year too soon. Some did actually do this and commiserated with me on finally reaching the grand old age of 40. You can imagine my delight.

I’m not really all that bothered about turning 40, although I suppose I do still have a whole year to begin my crisis about the fact. And that’s what feels so strange about turning 39. It’s a rubbish age. A kind of no-man’s-land age because no-one is actually interested in the fact that you’re 39, they are only interested (and take great pleasure in reminding you) of the fact that you’re nearly 40. So really, you might as well be 40.

As a Knackered Mum*, I can probably be expected to suffer the ravages of time more than my child-free friends, so although I don’t feel as though I’m nearly 40, I probably look it, especially on a morning as I shuffle around like an old hag fetching breakfast things.

The grey hair is most definitely winning the battle, the anti-wrinkle creams are failing miserably and hand cream is a daily necessity rather than an after-thought. But so what? I’m getting older and that’s that. I’m certainly not going to fret about it or succumb to the lure of botox or start dressing like a teenager in an attempt to defy my age. Instead, I shall valiantly cling onto my youth as best as I can by availing of the best hair dyes out there, watching the X Factor and the occasional episode of MTV Cribs and keeping it real, or living it large or whatever the yoof of today would say...oh, who am I kidding. I'm bloody ancient.

*my official job title for purposes of form-filling
(image courtesy of Miss Anne Taintor)


June 7, 2010

Extreme Parenting. Really?

Did you read the article in yesterday’s Sunday Times Style Magazine about a totally radical approach to parenting? I did. It was the most hilarious thing I’ve read for ages. Basically, it was a plug for Matt Rudd’s forthcoming book, 'William's Progress' about the virtues of ditching the traditional parenting guidebooks and just going with the flow instead.

Having read the headline ‘Extreme Parenting’ on the front page, I was looking forward to a riveting read about parents who had raised a baby Bear Grylls, sending their child to be raised by a pack of wolves in Tibet, or teaching their 3 month old to eat steak and chips or something. So, I was disappointed to read that the ‘extremes’ being referred to are simply: no nappies, no cot, no bottles, no buggy. No wolves then?

I’ll give you the edited highlights.

No nappies from 7 months old
Apparently, this all went really well, as long as the child was ‘offered’ (?) a wee every hour. What’s that you say? Every hour? From the age of 7 months? I’m no statistician but that’s a hell of a lot of wees being ‘offered’ before the child’s first birthday. Rudd thinks this was a fantastic idea and says, “there is nothing worse than trying to unpeel a heavy two-year-old’s poo bag.” Oh yes there is. Trying to scrape up sloppy baby poo off the carpet eight times a day.

Basically, they shunned the idea of the child having its own cot, bought a massive bed (emperor size – does that really exist?) and dad retreated to the spare room for 2 ½ years. Nothing so extreme about that – most dad’s retreat to the spare room when babies come along. Oh, but when No. 2 came along, daddy moved into the top bunk with junior on the bottom bunk. OK, I’ll give you this. A 35-yr old man sleeping in a bunk bed is a little extreme.

What? Feeding from the breast? Now, that IS extreme. This man is a genius.

No buggy
Apparently, “the fourth dimension in a stress-free, clutter-free parenting existence is to ditch the buggy.” His words. Not mine. Rudd’s 'Mrs' apparently had a massive revelation in an airport and decided to use a sling instead. Now, I’ve nothing against slings as such but, ditch the buggy? Are you insane man? Where on earth am I supposed to hang all the shopping bags and spare coats and store all the ‘just-in-case’ hats, drinks, teddies and snacks? Then again, maybe I was missing out because apparently, if you use a sling you can go to this extreme, secret club called a ‘Sling Meet’, where other ‘slingers’ can whisper bad things to each other about the buggy pushing, nappy wearing, bottle feeding, cot sleeping parents while they sip on their Fairtrade coffee. That’s 'Fairtrade' coffee. He makes an explicit point on this for reasons only known to him. Maybe they sponsored his book?

So, I’m afraid, Matt Rudd, that I was a tad disappointed when looking at your extremities, as it were. Maybe there is some toddler trolley dash or infant rock climbing at some stage in the book. Perhaps I’ll have to read it to find the really juicy bits.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention that this fantastic, ‘extreme’ approach to parenting also meant that mum and dad didn’t go out together for three years. Blimey – sounds brilliant. Maybe he’s onto something after all.


June 2, 2010

Been there, done that

Oh the joy of being an ‘experienced’ parent. We’re like the equivalent of a Bridget Jones ‘smug-married’, safe and comfortable in the knowledge that we got past those first few years in one piece. We calmly reassure our friends that it really won’t do their baby any harm if they give them back the toy they just dropped on the floor, that they will, at some stage, get their child to sleep through the night, and that they will, one day, find the energy to blow dry their hair nicely.

My friend had a baby girl yesterday – hello to little Lauren – and I am so thrilled for her, but so glad it isn’t me. I think I would rather be subjected to another summer of Big Brother than face the emotional rollercoaster of a tiny baby again (apologies to any expectant or new mums out there). It’s not that I don’t adore teeny, weeny babies – I do and I got all soppy and emotional recently when the Small Boy moved out of his cot into a proper bed. A simple case of swaps to some; a symbolic end to our baby days to me. But I soon got over that and moved on and have now mentally and emotionally switched off the part of my brain that can cope with a new baby.

So, I am glad that I’ve ‘been there, done that’ on the baby years, but before I get too smug, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are still plenty of struggles which lie ahead of me.

The next one to be faced is toilet training. Oh yes – been there, done that alright and although my first child was actually quite easy to train (although I could have selective memory on this point), as I armed myself yesterday with a potty, toilet booster seats, big boys pants, old towels, Dettol spray, Kandoo wipes, reward charts and Percy Pigs (all essential toilet training equipment if I remember rightly), I felt a familiar sense of dread.

When you’ve been there, done that and are going there again, you suddenly don’t feel quite so smug anymore. Wish me luck!

By the way, if you have just had a new baby, Sandy at 'Baby Baby' has just written a great post full of advice. Well worth a read.

p.s. the ‘blog-iday’ was a great idea and it’s good to be back
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