Cardboard box? You were lucky…

August 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

It’s a bit like that “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch. You know the one.
“We were evicted from our ‘ole in the ground; we ‘ad to go and live in a lake.”
“You were lucky to have a lake! There were a hundred and fifty of us living in t’ shoebox in t’ middle o’ road.”
“Cardboard box? You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t’ mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi’ his belt.”

Only instead of childhood deprivation my OH and I frequently try and claim the most sleep deprivation.

OH: “I got home from work at midnight and got up at six with the middle one.”
Me: “Six hours uninterrupted sleep?! Luxury. I got four hours max. I was up three times in the night to breastfeed the baby, changed her nappy and babygro twice, let the dog out once, did the tax return, booked the holiday hire car and ordered 1yo’s birthday presents.”

Mainly we have this conversation to try avoid “the early.” To his credit since the arrival of the screamy thing (5 weeks ago) OH has been doing the lions share of the early mornings with the older ones, until he has to leave for work. However he feels that in so doing I waive all my rights to comment on his morning parenting skills. This is hard. The other morning I came down to find an educational and age appropriate violent cartoon blaring out of the TV, the boys eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast of Welsh cakes straight from the packet, and OH passed out on the sofa. (To be fair this was probably a bit of a one off as he had a hangover resulting from his first night out since the baby landed.)

And at least I get a proper weekend lie-in. Take last Saturday for example…

7am. Feeding baby in bed. Dreaming of hot tea closely followed by eight hours uninterrupted sleep. Stick cotton wool in ears to drown out the sound of the tapdancing elephants playing in the room below.

7.30am. 4yo sneaks in for a cuddle (ahh) then tries to escape with my Iphone concealed behind his back. (A-ha. Worrying tendencies towards gaming addiction at such a tender age.)

8am. OH brings boys upstairs to get them dressed. A bit like trying to force two octopuses (octupi?) into a string bag. I put the pillow over my head.

8.30am. OH attempts to conduct a time out on the stairs with a punchy and tearful 1yo.

9am. In the room next to mine, 4yo and OH have a conversation about the whereabouts of the lego car wheels. “In the kitchen” I shout out. A pause before OH’s voice replies, incredulous, “Why are you not asleep?” Then, “You’re rubbish at lie-ins.”

I swallow hard and bite my tongue. You see, it could be worse. I could be living in a paper bag in a septic tank.

now if you could just cover silly point, midwife Martin*

April 11, 2011 § 6 Comments

When my friend was training to become a midwife, it was amusing to discover that in midwife-speak ‘delivering a child’ is known as as ‘catching.’ She had to catch a certain quota before she qualified.

Now I’m no expert, but hey I’ve had a couple myself, witnessed a couple (my brothers, both delivered at home), and I’m a seasoned One Born Every Minuter, but it doesn’t seem to me that babies hurtle out at the speed of light to be fielded with a valedictory ‘gotcha’ and much high-fiving. Midwives aren’t spaced about the delivery room covering short-mid-on or deep-square-leg fielding positions (actually I could be onto something here).  No it seems to me that babies are mostly pulled into being, or guided, forceped, or yoinked.

3yo has been talking a lot lately about the process of delivering my baby. He is fascinated. So far he has gleaned that the baby will come out of of my ‘baby hole’ (thanks to the childminder for that one). I find him constantly accompanying me to the loo in order to try and better determine my biology. He finds it beyond hilarious that ‘mummy doesn’t have a welly’ (I don’t like to correct him, welly is so much funnier), and that I sit down to do a wee ‘cos I can’t aim propley.’ But now he’s constantly trying to ascertain where it is that the baby is going to ‘pop’ out from.

The other day, my neighbour said to him, “What would you like to be when you’re older?” to which he replied  “A grownup.” Genius. However I’m thinking maybe a career in midwifery may be his calling. Only yesterday he called me over to show me his ‘special cushion.’ “It’s for when your baby pops out, mummy,” he explained. “When she pops out, I’m going to catch her on this cushion.” Wonder if this early catch would count towards his midwife qualification target later in life? And maybe third babies do hurtle out. I’d be quite happy with that. High five.

*PS. silly point is a cricket fielding position. In case any further proof were needed that cricket is utter nonsense.

Jobcentreplus, I’d like that half hour of my life back please

March 24, 2011 § 6 Comments

Ah, the great British ‘system.’ My HR department gave me a handout from Jobcentreplus about Maternity Allowance as I haven’t been working for them long enough to claim Statutory Maternity Pay. The handout gave me details of the MA1 form I must use to claim and the number to call to request a copy. It’s been at the top of my personal admin pile for a while. So yesterday I finally get around to calling the number.

After navigating through the holding pattern I finally speak to a human (well she seemed human initially) who informs me in a monotone that “the call will take half an hour madam. Do you have half an hour to spare at this time?” I look longingly at my book and reading glasses. “Yes,” I say. “Provided the baby doesn’t wake up from his nap.” “I need you to be able to commit to a half hour call madam” says monotone woman. Me: “but I’m only after a form.” Monotone woman (let’s call her MW): “well we need to first assess your circumstances in order to assess your eligibility for such a form.”

So I agree, and I am then taken through a list of questions relating to my personal circumstances, including partner details, children details, due date of current pregnancy, hours I work per week, inside leg measurements. All questions are read out slowly and precisely, without a note of personality. She even fails to snigger when I mistakenly class my relationship as a ‘civil partnership’ responding in true monotone style that “this classification is for same sex couples, madam.” I feel MW might have missed her true calling in life as a guard in Abu Ghraib, introducing a new interrogation technique of submission-by-monotone.

As soon as MW establishes that I have a partner, I am read out, in full, every single question again relating to my partner. I try saying “all this applies to my partner too” but no dice. A sample slice of our conversation goes thus…

MW: “are you suffering from an industrial injury?”
me: “no”
MW: “are you currently underaking any industrial action? That means strike action.”
me: “no”
MW: “is your partner suffering from an industrial injury?”
me: “no”
MW “is your partner undertaking any inustrial action? That means strike action.”
me: Sigh. “No”
And so on.

We complete the process.  MW considers the evidence in front of her.
MW: “I’m sorry but you’re not eligible for Maternity Allowance at this time.”
me: “Why not?”
MW: “you need to make the claim within 14 weeks of your due date.”
Me: “but I only want a FORM. I don’t actually want to process the claim yet.”
MW: “I’m sorry madam but you’ll have to call back within 14 weeks of your due date.”
Me (plaintively): “can’t you just send me the form? It doesn’t mention this on the handout I have in front of me. It just says call this number to be sent your form.”
MW: “our website clearly states that this claim will only be valid within a 14 week period of your estimated due date.”
me: “I don’t suppose by any chance my details will be stored so I don’t have to answer the questions again when I call back?”
MW: “I’m sorry madam but the eligibility questionnaire will have to be completed again in full.”

After I’ve hung up I quickly try and calculate when I need to call back. Yesterday I was 25 weeks pregnant. Today I am 26 weeks pregnant. You guessed it. I was ONE DAY too early. Gotta love British bureacracy. 

Blooming marvellous, or, whatever happened to my bikini line

March 8, 2011 § 4 Comments

A few people, although noticeably fewer than during the previous two pregnancies, have told me that I am ‘blooming.’ A very kind and slightly shortsighted person at work told me again this morning. The image of a beautiful freesia, sticky sweet with pollen, exploding voluptuously into flower, flashed briefly into my mind, only to be replaced by that of a slightly trampled upon daisy, a few petals to the worse, being mercilessly plucked by a grubby-handed toddler, and fed to the worm farm. I am, as ever, being overdramatic. But ‘blooming’? Really? Blooming tired, blooming spotty, blooming fed up, maybe. Multiple pregnancies are not kind to the female form.

I can’t remember what it was like to have a flat stomach. I mean, I know I used to have one – I found a pic of me (on the left) from an old work Xmas party during the time when my main food groups were Marly Lights and white wine. Now I indulge in whatever carbohydrate rich fayre I can get down my greedy gullet fast enough. And do I look better for it? Like hell I do.

I can’t remember what it is like to look attractive in my underwear. This morning I put on the quite pretty lacy maternity bra which had just come out of the wash, gasped for fresh air a few times, decided I was in no mood for Victorian corsetry, and made the eminently sensible yet ultimately unsexy decision to go with the large, slightly greying, yet allowing breath to enter the body, over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder.

My Other Half is extremely lovely about my growing form. Yet I couldn’t help notice him glance at the 3-pack of sensible short-briefs that were spilling out of my shopping bag yesterday. Was a small sigh slightly audible? Maybe I was imagining it. He certainly was sensible enough not to say anything.

Perhaps I could help myself feel better by spending more time on my ‘personal admin.’ But I can’t remember what it feels like to take time over beautification. Makeup consists of hurriedly applied touche éclat, a splodge of tinted moisturiser and random wave of a mascara wand in the eye direction, applied in the semi-darkness and rubbed in at some point later in the day when I realise I look like something from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hair removal too is an activity better conducted during times of natural light. However having a small child hanging off each arm does not aid comfortable or effective depilation. Coupled with that the growing bump makes bikini hair removal challenging, and not a little dangerous. It would be ever so wrong, but it has crossed my mind, to offer reward stickers to the 3yo for holding the mirror at the right angle.

So what’s to love about pregnancy? Well, the baby, obviously. But not the impact on my body. As well as the lasting effects on outward stretchification I’m scarily aware that I may be fast-forwarding to the time I browse the aisles insouciantly pretending I’m not looking for Tena Lady. However for now, I am just really blooming grateful I haven’t developed cankles.

the haunted look of the undead on the 8.12 to Victoria

February 21, 2011 § 15 Comments

I have been pondering the question, posed by Notes to self, plus two: what could I do today to make my life easier? This morning, on the train to work, hair bedraggled, no makeup on, eyes closed but still wearing reading glasses so as to not scare the commuters with my eye baggage, the answer came to me, as if in a dream: “Just get your head down a little earlier you bloody idiot.”

When Jerry Seinfeld became a father, he said: “I can’t get enough of my baby – but let’s make no mistake about why these babies are here. They’re here to replace us. They’re cute, they’re cuddly, they’re sweet, and they want us out of the way.” The way my boys have interrupted my sleep patterns for the last few years, at times I fear they may be plotting my demise. I won’t quote it because I’m actually quite sceptical, but if you want to read about some of the claimed side-effects of sleep deprivation you can scare yourself silly with this infographic compiled for sleep monitor company Zeo.

Saturday night, I slept well. I was asleep at half eleven, yet despite several nighttime trips to the loo, despite bringing the teething 1yo into bed at 4am where he proceeded to bat me around the head for an hour until he finally fell asleep, I had the rare pleasure of lying in bed until 9am. Therefore I felt equipped to deal with the 1yo deciding to go for a swim in a muddy puddle, then emptying a tub of poster paint all over his change of clothes, and later scribbling all over himself and the dog with a purple felt-tip pen. I felt able to laugh when the 3yo decided to tear open a packet of flour in the sitting room, and invented a new song entitled ‘oh god, oh my god, oh god god god.’ (He’s been to church once on Christmas Eve. I don’t think he was singing a hymn.)

But THIS morning? Still blotchy from hormonal weeping after watching The Royal Tenenbaums, I fell asleep at half eleven, then was awoken at four by 1yo, then half four by 3yo, who then proceeded to camp outside my bedroom door and roll small objects under the gap until I finally gave up and took him downstairs at half five. At that time a bowl of cornflakes dropped on the floor is as explosive as a bomb on my reserves of patience, and a pair of wet pyjamas induces the pouring away of yet more seratonin along with the washing powder. Despite the extended time-frame I still struggled to combine getting the children dressed and myself ready for work which led to the appearance of dishevelled crazy-lady, with the haunted look of the undead on the 8.12 to Victoria.

Is there something I can do about it? YES! Forget ‘having some quality time after the children have gone to bed.’ I just need to get my arse up the stairs and start going to bed at 9pm every once in a while. It might not kill me.

“you’re rubbish at lie-ins”

February 6, 2011 § 5 Comments

I was really looking forward to this morning. I didn’t go to bed until midnight (tragic that I now consider this a late night), so confident was I that hours of dream-filled sleep stretched out in front of me.

At 3am, 1yo starts crying. I get up to settle him (I am happy to undertake this nightly task as his cries always wake me and then I need to go to the loo. Other Half just grumbles if he gets out of bed, then 5 minutes later off I trundle towards the bathroom.)

At 3.30am, I retrieve the cats from behind the curtain, throw them out and shut the door.

At 6.30am, 3yo climbs in next to me and puts his ice cube feet on my shins. We have a pleasant cuddle, then OH is good to his word and takes him downstairs.

At 8am, OH appears in the doorway and places a warm, cuddly, messy-haired 1yo into my arms. He then re-appears with a cup of tea.

This may all sound lovely, especially to new mums who aren’t getting a wink of sleep. But hold on, I normally get around 6 hours sleep, and I’ve certainly put the childcare hours in this week/month/year. Since when did 8am constitute a lie-in?! I moan a little bit about the fact that on Saturday’s OH gets undisturbed sleep until 9.30/10. The reply is “but you go to bed much earlier than me! And anyway, you were probably awake. You’re rubbish at lie-ins.” The fact that I may be awake I think is irrelevant. I could be day-dreaming, sneaking Grazia or French braiding my bloody leg-hairs. The fact is this is my time to hide away and get some peace.

Then Doris dog appears. She runs into the room, throws herself on her back on the rug, and contorts around snorting, looking for a scratch.

10 seconds later, it is the turn of 3yo. He skips into the doorway wearing nothing but his vest. He piles storage boxes on top of each other and switches my light on, twisting the dimmer setting up to ‘blinding.’ He then does a kind of Irish jig across the bedroom floor, and launches full-volume into “there was an old man called Michael Finnegan, he grew whiskers on his chinnigan.” Pauses. “JOIN IN MUMMY!!” I take up, croakily, “the wind came out and blew them inagain…” and at that point 1yo straddles his legs around my neck and plonks his rather full, damp nappy down on my forehead.

“Ahh,” I think. “The start of another quiet Sunday.”

Hooray! I’m a British mum

February 4, 2011 § 15 Comments

Britain is a much maligned place, especially by the British. But I love her even more now I’ve joined the ‘mum’ sisterhood.

Membership simply involves popping out a sprog or two. As a mum that resides in London, I have come to love the country of my birth, and my fellow mothers and their eccentricities. In the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, herself a fine British mother: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

1. Want to let your child watch TV all day long without guilt? Britain is the place for you. So convinced are we by the outright decentness of the BBC that to hear some mums talk you’d be forgiven for thinking that sitting our children in front of its children’s channel CBeebies is akin to them having a one-on-one tutorial with Stephen Hawking. “See, there are no adverts!” we cry evangelically, as a man dressed as a psychedelic teddybear intones words we don’t understand.

2. Want to develop your stiff upper lip and make the best of everything? Look no further than the fine tradition of a British picnic. We are blessed with beautiful countryside and fantastic urban parks. Want to enjoy them from the inside of the car as the rain hammers down, or behind a windbreak on the beach shivering beneath a pile of flimsy towels? Britain is the place for you.

3. Which brings me to the weather. It is possible we are a little obsessed by it. I concede this point. But doesn’t its unpredictability make life exciting? And my goodness it makes us organised. The British mum’s day bag is a thing to behold, crammed with all manner of summer clothes, winter clothes, umbrellas, sunscreen. Mary Poppins was not British for nothing.

4. Competitive parenting? Forget it. We have competitive non-parenting. My twitter feed is full of mums sharing their best failures. “Whoops out of bread we’re having crisps for breakfast again!” is greeted with a collective sigh of relief that we’re not alone in our lack of perfection. Our children are not exempt from this either. I was delighted at my 3 year old son’s swimming lesson last week that he was the only child in the pool able to swim a width unaided, yet I found myself laughing to the other mum’s “don’t worry, he doesn’t even know how to hold a pencil!” Cue collective pats on backs all round.

It’s good here. We support each other. Over tea and biscuits we’d come to the aid of our worst enemy if we felt she was having a crisis of confidence. And for that, British mums, I salute you.

Article first published as Hooray! I’m a British mum. on Technorati.

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