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Friday, 23 October 2015

In Defence of Slacker Mums


The word ‘slacker’ is misleading. Slacker mums are NOT lazy. On the contrary, Slacker mums are trying to be everything and do everything. We had a life once; a life we liked. Trying to keep that life going at the same time as being the best mum we can makes for a pretty busy schedule.

 Often we are juggling home and work. And feeling like we're not doing a particularly good job at either. Bolting out the door of the office as the clock ticks to 5.00 so that we can get home in time to deliver our child to Dance Club/Swimming/Beavers and then having to apologise again because we have forgotten their shoes/swimming cap/woggle. 

Rushed is our middle name. There are school mornings when we have to make a split second decision on whose hair will be brushed because there's not enough time for all of us. Trips to the supermarket are against the clock as we throw food into a trolley into which we have trapped our iPhone watching children. At parties we have to accept the 'late again' jibes from the Smug Mothers even though we think they should be grateful that we turned up at all.  

We can't do craft. Oh, we do our best. We spend our overdraft in Hobbycraft, Google "easy craft no glitter" and try to pretend that we're enjoying ourselves. But it's hard to shrug off the utter pointlessness of a task which involves spending an hour of our life creating a random monstrosity which will be littering various places in our living room or kitchen until the children have forgotten it and we can scoot it into the bin. (All the while trying not to think that that piece of crap probably cost £7 in tissue paper and stickers.) 

Some of us are a little disorganised. We may be found fishing yesterday's school uniform out of the washing basket (if it made it that far) and wiping it clean with a wet wipe. We are sometimes haranguing our children with felt tips and coloured paper at 7:30 in the morning because we’ve just found a crumpled homework sheet at the bottom of a school bag. We often meet each other frantically searching in Tesco for a superhero costume/Christmas jumper/Pudsey bear T-shirt at 11pm the night before a school dressing up day. 

But when we do see another Slacker Mum, the relief is immense. Meeting one another’s eyes in a cafĂ© where at least one of our children is under the table and raising our mug in solidarity. Confessing in whispers that our child’s lunchbox includes a sandwich containing only ketchup because we didn’t have the energy to fight that morning. When we recognise one of our own, we nod and smile the smile that says, “Me too, sister.”

Because Slacker mums don't judge. We don't even treat the Perfect Mothers with disdain. No, we admire them with their immaculate school run hair and tidy "drop by any time" houses. Sometimes, for three consecutive days, we actually manage to BE them. But, hey, we're Slackers: it never lasts. 

 If we’re honest, we can’t always blame motherhood for these characteristics. We were probably not renowned for our tidiness, punctuality and organisation before having children. It was just a lot easier to hide when we only had ourselves to look after. Slacker mums are actually trying very hard: it is because we have spent 20 minutes working out beautifully coordinated outfits for our children that we ourselves leave the house looking like we’ve just been electrocuted.

And it definitely doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy being a mum. Our lives are busy and stressful and disorganised but they are also full of moments of joy when we look at our family laughing, playing and enjoying each other and feel a contentment that makes everything else completely worthwhile. We Slacker Mums love our children so much we could eat them. It's just that, sometimes, we wish we had. 

Begin a Slacker Mum means never quite feeling like you have this motherhood thing nailed. Sometimes we try to do everything, but end up feeling that we’ve achieved nothing. Sometimes we measure ourselves against the Perfect Mothers and find ourselves wanting. Sometimes we berate ourselves because we’re not the best cook, housekeeper or creator of creatures from egg boxes and loo rolls.

But always we love our children, we do our best and we try to support the other Slacker Mums around us. And we know that, ultimately, that is all that really matters.

 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

To My Second Child


You’re not my first; that much is true.
I loved another before loving you.
I’m a different mother this time around.
More calm and confident I’ve found.

With your brother, everything was new.
I was focused on his every move.
Each tiny smile was photographed.
I changed my ringtone to his laugh. 

Since you came, there’s a new dimension.
Two children now want my attention.
And sometimes you’re left in your chair,
Whilst I play with your brother over there.

 I cannot watch your every move.
Or, when you cry out, jump to soothe.
I don’t panic every time you sneeze,
And dash you off to A & E.

Your rattles and teds are hand-me-downs,
(And some toys may have lost their sounds.)
There’s less concern if your blanket’s scratchy,
And your baby book is a little patchy. 

I know what the next months have in store.
And each phase you reach, I’ve seen before.
This doesn’t mean I love you less.
This time the feeling’s more complex. 

I’m pleased to see you learn and grow,
But it also pulls my heartstrings so.
I was so excited first time ‘round.
This time I want to slow things down. 

Your ‘firsts’ will all be ‘lasts’ for me.
Last crawl and last to ride my knee.
Last nappy, breastfeed, spoon of mush.
Last rock-to-sleep, last cry to hush.

 You were not my firstborn this is true,
But the last child I will have is you.
You’re the last lullaby I’ll ever sing.
And ‘lasts’ are a special kind of thing.

 

Friday, 16 October 2015

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out


“Fear of missing out (or FOMO) is a form of social anxiety – a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event.” (Wikipedia)

When a friend introduced me to the concept of FOMO, the relief of being able to put a name to my condition was palpable. FOMO explains the symptoms I have laboured with for years: a diary as full as Katie Price’s bra and a purse as correspondingly empty; that sick, sinking feeling when I realised I really couldn’t make a family party, a night out with my work friends and a school trip to the theatre all on the same night.
My husband has never suffered with this condition. For him, one engagement in a month borders on a social whirlwind. When we had been together for about two weeks (and I had already started to mentally write a wedding guest list and name our future children) he mentioned casually that he didn’t like to arrange more than one night out in a week. It was almost a deal breaker. On reflection, one of the main reasons he was keen to have children at all was the ‘get out clause’ they would give him. What better excuse to turn down a night out than “we can’t get a babysitter” or “baby has been unwell”?

For me, however, having children has only exacerbated the problem. They have brought with them a whole host of separate events which I can’t possibly turn down. Baby rhyme time, craft afternoons, children’s parties. Anything advertised with ‘Children’s Activities’ in a ten mile radius, I am writing down in my diary and dragging them along.
Added to this is the fact that I am more knackered than I have ever been in my life. No longer can a full week of ‘busy-ness’ be recovered from with a morning in bed; weekend lay-ins are for wimps according to my offspring. After five days of prising them out of bed for school like winkles from their shells, they leap out of bed on a Saturday and Sunday ready to live life to the full.

But, despite their early rising on a weekend morning, they are in no rush to get out of their pyjamas and leave the house. Often I am pulling them away from a perfectly contented game or colouring-in session with promises that they will ‘have a great time’ wherever we are going. It has taken a while for me to realise that they were actually having a ‘great time’ at home, just pottering about and playing with their toys (it’s their father’s genes.)
I don’t want to paint a false picture here. I genuinely enjoy (almost) all of the events that we attend but sometimes my ‘FOMO’ backfires on itself. Time seems to be shooting past since William and Scarlett arrived. Days, weeks, even months are disappearing never to be recovered. Gradually I am realising that, by filling my diary with a million things to do, I actually AM missing out. Missing out on just being with my children. No plans, no rushing around and no opening/closing times to panic about. At their age, our happiest times are making a tent out of the duvet and laying under it eating bourbons from the packet.

Therefore, I have made the decision that these more relaxed moments are the ones that I will be making sure I am not missing out on. From now on, my diary will be taking second place and I will embrace an empty weekend as an opportunity to just hang out and see how the mood takes us. We might go out, we might stay home, but we won’t be dashing from one place to the next in the fear that we will miss out on something. Because the ‘something’ we don’t want to miss out on is right here.

And if anyone tells my husband he was right, I will deny everything.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

If (Inspired by Rudyard Kipling)


If you can keep your head when all about you
Is an ever growing pile of toys and games
If you can referee a fight about a felt tip
And still love both the fighters just the same
If you can function on three hours of sleeping
And still be running round the park next day
If you can cook whilst helping out with homework
And listening to all they have to say.
If you can clean a room with just some wet wipes
And understand the cleaning up will never cease
If you can bear to re-box mixed-up jigsaw puzzles
And stay up ‘til you’ve found that final piece
If you can thank them for the ‘dinner’ that they’ve made you
Even though the mess confirms your deepest fears
Or watch the lounge that you’ve just tidied cluttered
And start again to tidy without tears


If you can make a fort with toilet rolls and Pritt stick
And cope with glitter stuck to all your clothes
If you can sit through Kid’s TV without a vodka
(even if you sometimes have a little doze)
If you can keep all entertained on long car journeys
With puzzles, games and shrink wrapped healthy snacks
And stay calm even though you feel like swearing
When World War Three still kicks off in the in the back


If you can read the same book ten times over
Keeping perfectly to every word and rhyme
If you can hear the same lame joke repeated
And laugh enthusiastically each time
If you can listen to your children’s constant moaning
Without going completely ‘round the bend
Yours is the pure love unconditional
And – which is more – you’ll be a mum, my friend.

Friday, 9 October 2015

When boys and girls come out to play

William: Will you play Clash of Clans with me?
Scarlett: Yes. Then will you dance with me?
William: Yes, afterwards. You can have this sword and I will have the bow and arrow.
Scarlett: OK. Then will you marry me?
William: OK then.
Just before sitting down to write this morning, I was having a light saber fight with my son whilst trying not to wake my daughter’s ‘baby’.
This kind of gender specific play is not something of which I approve. Before having children, I was convinced that traditional male/female roles were something we learned, not something we were born with. Seems, as far as my children are concerned, I didn’t have that quite right.
It is certainly not something they have learned from us. Both husband and I work a three-day week so that we have exactly the same amount of days at home with the children. And if I tell you that they call our vacuum cleaner ‘Daddy’s hoover’ that tells you everything you need to know about who does the most housework around here.
Determined that my children wouldn’t be raised to follow stereotypes, I always made sure they had toys from both sections of the toyshop. When he was small, I bought William a baby doll and a buggy. He ignored the doll and used the buggy to transport his building blocks from room to room. Scarlett is no better. She has a sword which matches her brother’s, but she has tied a ribbon around the hilt of hers so that it can be used as a magic wand.
Which leaves me at a loss. What am I supposed to do? Should I remove all toys with any kind of gender connotation from the house? Rip the baby doll forcibly from Scarlett’s arms and make William face up to his parental responsibilities? Threaten him with the CSA?
Admittedly, it’s not always so black and white (or pink and blue.) Whilst putting on a puppet show of Rapunzel one rainy day, I laid aside all my feminist principles to put on a squeaky ‘princess’ voice and ask the knight to save me. I was pretty pleased when William put his head on one side and said, “Hmmm, maybe you could turn your hair into a lasso and save yourself?” Scarlett has also been known to dress herself from head to toe in pink and sparkles and then ‘tool up’ with an armoury of weapons that would impress Rambo.
Which leads me the conclusion that they are who they are. My determination that my daughter will be able to smash through any glass ceilings which stand in her way as a woman will not be affected by her penchant for Barbie and hair accessories. In the same way, the fact that my son has decided that he is a Super Spy in training should not deter him from becoming a sensitive man who takes an equal place with women in society.
Therefore, the next time I am fending off an attack from the dark side whilst holding my imaginary grandchild in my arms, I will relax in the knowledge that they both have their own ideas, opinions and way of living their life. My only job is to support them in whatever they choose.