Sleep deprivation: the results

December 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve conducted a highly scientific study over the last four years, to determine the effects of a continual lack of shuteye. The study involved hundreds of mothers of young children, and a control group of childless females of the same age. I’ve weighted the results so as to be demographically representative of the UK as a whole. That’s not actually true. My study involved one sleep-deprived, touche eclat* addicted, individual. The results below are observations about how my brain has started to malfunction since the arrival of three children since 2007, none of whom are as closely acquainted with the insides of their eyelids as I would like them to be.

1. Short-term memory shot to pieces. Think: must wipe table. Wipe table. Go back into kitchen. Think: must wipe table. Find table already wiped. This happens so frequently I’ve started to worry about early onset Alzheimer’s. It happens for mainly mundane tasks. Is it because as I wake up every couple of hours through the night I very rarely achieve deep sleep? Perhaps a sleep-deprived brain only has space for a certain amount of memory, and it prioritises the big stuff. Eg. Get children from school. Give children food. Put children to bed. Am thinking I may have to act like Guy Pearce’s character in Memento, although instead of tattooing my body with personal information I could write on my arm with a bic biro each time a task is completed, eg: BOILER IS ON! TOAST IS PRESSED DOWN! 

2. Inability to recall names, faces, events. Parents become ‘so and so’s mum’. I smile vaguely at most parents on the school run because I’m sure I’ve probably spoken to them before. I told the nice beauty therapist who does home massages etc that I wished I had had a facial in the last five years. She informed me that she had given me two. I cannot remember this.

3. Limited grasp of the passage of time. Will Young won Pop Idol ten years ago?! (Note the significant cultural event that I chose. See next point)

4. Increased denseness/interest in lowbrow television. My inability to concentrate on highbrow programming is lamentable. I wish I could say I watch BBC4 on a regular basis. No, nowadays I even lose interest in the news after the headlines. I choose programmes with a nice sequentially unfolding storyline, upbeat soundtrack, and subtitles reminding me of each character’s name and location of the scene. Something like Made in Chelsea or Towie. I also can’t watch in real time, I have to record everything so I can forward past the ads and dull bits. I went to an opera recently and found myself wishing for my remote. 

5. Accelerated ageing. Grey hairs, sallow skin, aching limbs. Partially offset by reduced alcohol consumption and lack of sun damage from foreign holidays.

*Dark-shadow concealer of the gods

Beware the kindness of strangers

December 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

It was a familiar scene on the way home from school pickup. 4yo complaining loudly about the lack of snacks upon my person, 2yo arching his back and refusing to be strapped into the double buggy, baby crying softly. A large lady stops at the bottom of the hill and smilingly awaits my approach.

“Good lord,” she says, hands on hips, by way of greeting. “You haven’t got three under five, have you?” When I nod my affirmation she continues: “I did that too. Mine are in secondary school now. I think that most weeks I manage to smile, oh…three days out of seven.” When I giggle in response she looks quizzical. I don’t think she was joking. “Good luck,” she says, fixing me with a serious stare. “God bless. It does get better.”

I don’t know whether to be grateful or to cry. Three days out of seven?! Is that what I’m aiming for? I think she meant well. But next time I see a benevolent-looking stranger I’m going to keep my head down and walk straight past.

Say Cheerio to Hunger

December 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

My 2 year old son adores cereal. So it was no real surprise to catch him tucking into three full boxes of the stuff the other day. That he had first emptied out all over the floor. It was hard to pretend to be mad at him.

But then I thought…what a luxury, that I can laugh at this kind of misdemeanour, sweep the food into the rubbish, and buy some more. How many children around the world can be so indulged?

In some areas of East Africa, a child is dying every six minutes from starvation. There is a severe food shortage. The rains have failed and families have lost their crops, livestock and food supplies. Food and water prices have soared. This crisis was predicted and could have been prevented.

Food price hikes, according to research by Save the Children, may have put the lives of up to 400,000 children around the world at risk.

Now I know I can’t post those Cheerios to Africa. But there is something practical that I can do. I can take a minute to sign the Charter to End Extreme Hunger petition. Take a positive step to help those millions of children around the world who exist on the edge of survival, always close to disaster. Urge your friends to do the same.

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The Porridge Guides: Part 1

November 29, 2011 § 6 Comments

How to get your baby to not sleep through the night.

Yes that’s right, not sleep. It would be hypocritical of me to write a How To guide. Therefore here is my How Not To guide. Take from it what you will.

1. Decide that a dummy is not for you.

2. Your nipples are now pacifiers. Offer them up throughout the night at the merest hint of baby’s wakefulness or crying.

3. Decide that blankets and sheets are not for you. Ignore fact that baby in her growbag, whilst safe from suffocation risk, has hands that could give the polar icecaps a run for their money.

4. When attempting to stop nightfeeding, in order to soothe baby, introduce a sippy cup of water. Said cup will be demanded upon night waking for approximately the next three years.

5. Rock baby to sleep, gently and lovingly. Place baby in crib. Place weight of self over baby in crib, and peel off gently. If knee creaks upon leaving the room, recommence rocking.

6. Decide that to break rocking routine, controlled crying must be attempted. Give up controlled crying after approximately one hour. Dry own tears and baby’s. Commence rocking.

7. Ensure inconsistency of approach. One day decide you are all about the Gina Ford. The next decide that co sleeping may, indeed, be for you. A surefire way to ensure know one knows what they’re supposed to be doing, and you and baby never sleep through the night again.

Part 2, the Porridge Guide to not weaning your baby, coming soon.

What’s in a name?

November 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Older Mum has asked me to reveal my nicknames, past and present. She was tagged by the hilarious Flossing the Cat. Both of their partners sound like they are treading on thin ice. One of them is known affectionately as Poo Head and the other The Bottomless Pit of Need. Yes I spat my tea across the room too.

I’m not sure my OH can compete with that, although he does on occasion call me Sad Sack. Most of my nicknames have been shortened versions of my full name, Alexis. For years I was known as Leki, although it changed to Lex when at University as the group of Liverpudlians I hung around with couldn’t take me seriously, and kept on talking about “topping up the leccy” when at the bar.

I did try for a while in my teens to introduce some cooler sounding nicknames. ‘Red’, I think, was one of them, and ‘Spike’ was my graffiti tag, if enscribing a park bench with bic biro (along with my friend Rachel ‘the Moog’) counts as graffiti. Watch your back, Banksy. Needless to say, self-created monikers never stick. 

Other nicknames over the years have included ‘Lexington’, ‘The Lexas Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Solar Plexus’ and ‘Alectriss’. When at junior school I was obviously Alexis Carrington. Children can be so original. My poor sister Abigail was known variously as Abbey Crunch and Get the Abbey Habit. Plus unfortunately we went to the Abbey School next to the Abbey Church.

Perhaps my least favourite was ‘Bianca’ as when in sixth form with my long red hair I bore more than a passing resemblance to Bianca Jackson from EastEnders. Not helped by the fact that I was going out with a boy at the time who was a bit like Tricky Dicky, with a dodgy leather jacket and penchant for heavy gold jewellery and souped up cars. Although he was from Watford, not Walford.

So there you have it. Nicknames. Now I’m about to go to playgroup and invent a whole new me. “Hi my name is Alexis but you can call me Ace.” Maybe not.

4yo locates the off switch

November 23, 2011 § 4 Comments

It has been a shocker of a month. An endurance test. If I’ve been more grumpy and introspective than usual I can only apologise. That’s what happens when you have mainly your own self for adult company, and are awake for twenty hours a day. I’m still spending most of the night sitting up with the baby. I also have an ill 2yo for the second time in a fortnight. Yesterday I stumbled downstairs with him at 4am and trod on half a mouse. That’s the kind of experience that really starts the day on a high. I’m noticing my smile is still there, but it’s more fixed, my laugh more hysterical.

Anyway, I didn’t set out to rant. I set out to be positive. Because whenever I am having a particularly bad day, there is always a knight in shining armour. Yesterday, there were two. A kindly mum who has a child in the same reception class as my son, clocked my Facebook message about the 4am start and the half mouse, and drove round to collect him and take him to school.

My other knight in shining armour was 4yo. Despite being a handful himself at times, he loves his mum. He senses when things are getting too much for me. Yesterday he came into his own, playing the clown and cheering 2yo up. It generally involved him being pushed off sofas, dancing and falling over, or pretending to hit his head and need an ambulance. While I was cooking he got the root veg out of the cupboard and pretend made a meal with 2yo, then played catch with potatoes. It reminds me of the time it took me 7 hours to drive home from my dad’s house in the snow (normally a 30 minute drive.) In the car was 4yo, then 2 and a half, and 2yo, then 5 months old. He sang songs to his brother, and chatted to me until nearly midnight, although I had nothing to entertain him with and nothing to feed him. What a little trouper. He also constantly offers me his little pearls of wisdom, that never fail to make me smile. This morning he was telling me about dinosaurland, and how there are people that live there, they’re just like us but they don’t wear shoes. He also told me that we live in England, which is on top of the world. What would I do without him?

Where’s that girl gone?

November 21, 2011 § 5 Comments

On Friday night I went into Soho to meet a friend who is leaving London to live in San Francisco. A few years ago, Soho was my regular Friday night haunt. I’d pound the streets after work to meet up with friends and roll home at some ungodly hour. But this Friday, I felt like a stranger in my own city. I think I’ve been in home confinement for too long. Sinister cranes have appeared at the top of Charing Cross Road preparing for Crossrail, streets were boarded up, and I could feel a knot of anxiety building in my stomach as I took a dark cut through by Soho Square. Is this what motherhood has done to me? Where has that confident independent girl gone?

Being a full time mum can feel very isolating, especially now I have three so young. I find I can’t do much with my day as I have feeds, meals, naps and school runs to be on time for. Yes, I chat to mums on the school run and at playgroups. Yes, I meet up with friends and their children for playdates, lunch, and coffee. But when I was working, there would be somebody to witness everything I did. If a negotiation over the phone went badly, or if it went well, or I was feeling the pressure of a certain situation, I’d simply turn around and chat to a colleague about it. When at home with the children, there are countless little battles and little triumphs,  situations where I feel I’ve done well or badly. But there’s no one to share it with, no one to ask for encouragement or feedback. Not really. 

When my other half returns home from work, generally very late and a little hassled, of course I share with him the outtakes from my day. The funny things that the children have said or done, their naughty episodes. But all too often I find myself moaning about how tired I am, complaining about  how I haven’t had a chance to sit down, sometimes bursting into tears of frustration. When I hear myself I think “Hold on – this isn’t a fair representation of my day at all. It’s been hard work but it’s also been rewarding and good fun.” The sad fact is that I think I just want him to appreciate how hard it has been. Really I’m just looking for validation. I want him to say “Well done, you’ve done a fantastic job today.” For both our sakes I think I just need to try and conjure up that girl again. The one who went out boozing on a Friday night and had a sparkle in her eyes. I know she’s still in there somewhere.