Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Lesson 49: Mum Rage

I am so much angrier since having kids. Okay I am so much more a lot of things since having kids (skint, tired, wobbly...) But my shortened temper is certainly an interesting development. 

I have Mum Rage.

And, I have discovered, I'm not alone. This is a thing. I have witnessed other mums in the throes of Mum Rage, which by its nature is often ridiculously disproportionate to the actual situation. 

The following, I've observed, are common causes:
Other people's children
Mainly at the park. God, the park. If your own child doesn't share the play equipment, or he shouts, whinges, and makes incessant screeching noises, it's mildly annoying. When this behaviour is demonstrated by a child who doesn't belong to you it's intolerable. I often find myself glaring angrily over the seesaw at somebody else's toddler (though the mum will get my sympathetic nod). It's my son's go on the fucking slide you bully. I don't care that you are two.

'I think the other little boy wants a go, sweetheart'
Celebrity Mums
Or wannabe TOWIE mums. If you have time for two pedicures, weekly eyebrow threading and a personal trainer, then we have nothing in common. You are not representing 'normal mums'. Normal is dry shampoo and leggings. And yes, I am only jealous. Pedicure you say? My legs are lucky to get a shave. 

Short iPad battery life
The iPad, loaded with Angry Birds and/or the Fireman Sam game bundle is how we get anything doneCharging for a morning is out of the question. '5% battery remaining' warns us shit is about to get real. Invent a supercharged one. Invent it now. 
Love Parents.

'Advice' from strangers
Somebody you have never met offering their pearls of fucking wisdom. In a patronising tone. When no advice has been sought. I've witnessed SO many angry red-faced mums spitting responses to these unhelpful interventions. Yes, he is a bit old for a dummy. No, he doesn't usually have two Mint Clubs as an emergency snack. But we're doing just fine thanks.

Ignorant shoppers
I have a pram. So when you walk at 2mph in a gang four-friends-wide, and then stop abruptly outside Urban Outfitters, I will ram it into your ankles. 
Toilet roll left balanced on the toilet roll harder. It must be pretty challenging to replace the empty one with the new one. Their snoring (breathing). Their escape to work. Bloody inconsiderate.

Childless people 
Childless people tutting. Fuck right off (or See Lesson 37). 
Mum Rage is also induced by these Responsibility-Free human beings "feeling tired." And having fun lives. Lucky bastards. 

Abuse of 'Parent and Child' parking spaces
We've all seen some bad-ass rule breaker casually swinging into one of these. Without a child. Or with a child aged SIXTEEN. Yes I'm glaring at you as I park in a normal bay. Not because I'm lazy, love. But because in a standard-width space it is almost impossible not to scratch the Audi next to me as I heave the carseat in and out and the toddler exits wielding his lightsaber.

I'm sure there are many more.....I'd love to hear yours! Join in using #MumRage

The Unmumsy Mum

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Lesson 48: A Spontaneous Outing

Yesterday, I made a spontaneous decision. I was pissed off beyond words with being stuck in the house, with one child crying, with his brother running from one end of the lounge to the other (and back again) shouting 'YOU'LL NEVER CATCH ME DARTH VADER,' pissed off with the fourth hour of Scooby sodding Doo. So I decided on a whim that we were going out.

"Right boys, we're going to the beach!" I declared. Unplanned and unpacked this felt quite liberating. The toddler got mildly excited and I decided this must be what those Fun Mums feel like. Let's go to the beach! Right now! God I can be so much fun.

This was at 9am. We would pack a bag and leave immediately, I told them.

11:47 we got in the car.

From the birth of my plan to the moment we were all strapped in the car THREE HOURS had passed. I won't bore you with the full breakdown of those hours because if you are a parent you will simply know how fucking impossible it is to leave the house. There were several nappies, two bottles, at least ten ounces of baby vomit, and one fairly major 'I'm not going ANYWHERE' tantrum.

Going out on a whim no longer felt very whimmy

But we had made it to the car. Game on. And the sun was shining. Everybody happy!

And then the toddler started crying because 'Cat' the sun shade had fallen down and he couldn't pet it. Turns out life is unbearably shit when you've just turned three. Everything is conspiring against you, including removable sun shades. And lego people.

He then proceeded to shout, at regular two minute intervals, 'Why are we going this way?' 'Are we lost?' 'Put the SALLY NAV on' (it's lucky he didn't remember our last adventure where I yelled 'Yeah NOW you've gone quiet you stupid bitch' at poor 'Sally Nav').

I wanted to listen to Radio One. This is out of character (Heart FM all the way) but it's starting to become apparent that my knowledge of pop music starts and ends with the B*witched/A1 era (great era, to be fair). Radio One would bring me up to speed with The Youth of Today. But after ten minutes of 'Mummy I don't like this one. I HATE this song!' it became too wearing and I had to turn it off. The soundtrack to the remaining journey was mostly my sighing. 

We finally arrived at the seafront and I couldn't find a parking space. I'd forgotten it was sodding half term. I finally squeezed the car into a space and nervously eyed the large groups of people (I think I might be allergic to school-age children).

I'd packed a picnic. But as the baby was still asleep, and I was basking in the lack of whinging, we ate it in the car. We did have a sea-view (out the window) so it wasn't a total failure.

And then we headed out. I had a plan. We would go for a walk along the seafront first (with the pram), and then we would shove everything back into the car and take just our merry selves (plus change bag, obvs) onto the beach.

It would be great.

It wasn't great.

The toddler was adamant he didn't need a wee until we had passed the toilets. Where he started doing his 'I'm desperate' jig. We ran back to the toilets. Despite my warnings he touched every visible inch of drug-taker-wee infested toilet rim. I too needed a wee, which I performed by hovering, and with the cubicle door wedged open by the pram. We then washed our hands in a sink which looked equally as contaminated. I think I now need to order a DIY disease test kit.

The baby woke up and cried.

The toddler ran along the seafront, fell over, hurt his hands and cried.

And on the beach? Well, the baby wanted a feed and the toddler gave me a heart attack by shouting 'I'm burying a dog poo!' which he later clarified was 'just pretend.' Something is wrong with a child who pretends dog shit is buried treasure, no?

He's burying a WHAT?
We walked down to the sea. That was nice. I mean, that was actually nice. I breathed in air that wasn't my living room and had a moment. Fun Mum turned up.

And then it was time to go home. The toddler didn't want to go home. So I got down on his level and reasoned* with him about why we were leaving.
[*bribed him with a Creme Egg].

So there you have it. Our spontaneous outing.

There are a few specific pointers I'm taking away from the day:
1) The baby doesn't like sand in his face.
2) The toddler doesn't like the baby.
3) With the exception of George Ezra, I hate all music in The Charts (god do they even still call it that? Mark Goodier still counts down the Top 40 on Sundays right?)
4) Spontaneity is dead to me.

The Unmumsy Mum

Monday, 16 February 2015

Lesson 47: Mums - Let's Enforce a Ban On Bullshit

Dear fellow mums*,

I'm writing to you with a plea. A request, if you like. 

It's not a huge ask. In fact, I shouldn't really have to ask at all. My request is so simple it demands only one thing from you all:

Your honesty.

You see, I'm getting a bit tired of witnessing what I like to call the Bullshit Olympics. I used to dabble in the sport myself. For a brief spell after the birth of Boy One you could say I was playing semi-professionally. And then, as I began to realise I wasn't doing myself (or anybody else) any favours, I jacked it in. Goodbye bullshit, hello honesty. And incidentally, hello The Unmumsy Mum blog. Hello to the truth about parenting. Warts and all. Shits and giggles (mainly shits). 

It's likely you have been taking part for some time without realising - it's remarkably easy to do so. The Bullshit Games go something like this:

Somebody asks you a question about your children, your mental state, your life. How are you? How has your week been? How are you finding it all? 

And you reply with something slightly at odds with what is in your head. In many instances this will be an airbrushed version of the truth. Typical mum responses include 'Yeah it's great!' 'We're all a bit tired but otherwise all good' and 'not bad thanks!  Bit of a juggling act with two but hey! You?

Some mums take the game to another level entirely. They never moan. Or sigh. Or yawn. And every response is accompanied by the Happy Mummy Face (a gleeful smile, shoulders-shrugged-with-delight, slightly secretive demeanour which says 'I'm so fucking happy with my life right now.')


I'm calling you out. And do you want to know why I'm calling you out? It's not because I am bitter and twisted at the absence of my own Happy Mummy Face and/or have nothing better to do at 9pm on a Monday (though Man Utd are playing, and I am bored, but that is not why I am writing this). 

I'm calling time on this charade because I have now had one hundred messages from mums reading this blog thanking me for 'making them feel better' or 'making them feel normal' where otherwise they have been feeling a bit shit. And do you know why they have been feeling a bit shit? Because, my fellow child-producers, they have found themselves standing at Bumps and Babies on a Thursday morning externally nodding and smiling in agreement to the happy clappy stories of parenthood whilst internally screaming 'I'm so bloody miserable today.' Because they have had no sleep, no shower, no adult conversation in four days and because their children have pushed them to a pretty dark place. 

That Thursday morning, the day you nodded and smiled and clapped along whilst Winding The Fucking Bobbin Up, there was a mum stood amongst you struggling not to cry. She didn't much like her children that day. She didn't much want to be a parent that day. She needed you to make her feel better. You made her feel worse. And then she shuffled home and messaged me to say 'thank god it's not just me, I've been so upset this week.

The fact that I've turned into bloody Dear Deirdre for parents (quite by accident) is pretty insane. What's more insane is the tendency of these mums to believe that everybody else is coping. Everybody else is loving it. Everybody else is a better parent because they are making the most of every special sodding second. 

This is bullshit people.

And worse still it creates a knock-on effect. Like Bullshit Dominoes. You stand in the playgroup domino line exaggerating your joy at the week you've just had. In turn, this encourages the mum to your right to do the same. Smiley smiley pissing smiley. Some of you probably have had a fantastic week. High fives. Some of you probably haven't. It's fine to admit as much, you know. Has anybody ever told you that?

So what do I propose? Well, as promised, my plea is really quite straightforward. 

When somebody asks you how you are, or how your morning has been, or whether you are enjoying motherhood, you tell them the truth. You tell them what you would say if you were talking to yourself. Not the socially acceptable sugar-coated version. 

I don't expect the levels of honesty present in this blog ("fuck me, it's horrendous isn't it?!") though for the record I did once come out with that at Breastfeeding Club *stares awkwardly at feet*. I mean we could all try a more balanced response. The good bits and the not-so-good bits:

'How's my week been you say? Well, the baby is sleeping better. Hooray! And we had a fantastic family trip to the beach *insert Happy Mummy Face attempt*....HOWEVER, the toddler has been a total arse all weekend and I got so fed up with their combined whinging on Tuesday I locked myself in the toilet and had a little cry. You?'

Wouldn't that be refreshing?

Go on, be the one to break the cycle. Cut the crap. Lessen the sugar coating. Try adding a pinch of real thoughts to the conversation. I bet you any money (and one hundred messages) that you are not alone. 

The Unmumsy Mum
[*Dads welcome here too, it's just in my humble opinion you are less bullshitty anyway.]

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Lesson 46: Ten Things You Swore You Wouldn't Do As Parents (But Do)

1) You willingly pick up your infant, and sniff his bum. Not a quick sniff of the general area, but a full inhalation of nappy aroma by burying your face deep into the backside of his sleepsuit. Pre-children, I once heard a woman comment, 'you know it's not your own baby's poo when it's a foreign smell.' I had a little chuckle to myself about how sad her life must be. Three years later, and I'm pretty confident I could pick my child's nappy out of a twenty nappy sniff test. They should add that as a round to The Cube. Turns out foreign nappy smells are A Thing.
'Can you give his bum a quick sniff?'
2) You refer to your spouse as 'Mummy' or 'Daddy', all the time, out of habit. You will try SO hard not to do this but sometimes you will let yourself down. And ask your husband, 'Do you want a cup of tea Daddy?' before looking around and realising your kids are in bed. And 'Daddy' hasn't even batted an eyelid at the loss of his actual name. Arghhhhh.

3) You are dismissive of your child's conversation - something you swore blind you would never be. This dismissal is not because you are a bad parent. But because, after twelve hours of 'I'm Scooby Doo you can be Daphne' and 'vroom vroom VROOOOMM look at my racing car,' you have zoned out and have no chat left to offer so you periodically nod and say 'that's lovely, darling' (whilst checking eBay) instead.

4) You comment 'gosh haven't they grown!' every time you see the offspring of friends or family. Despite remembering embarrassing elderly relatives saying this to you (and pinching your cheeks) when you were little. I mean it's kind of a given, isn't it? Kids grow. Daily. If you don't see your godson for six months it is highly probable that he will have got bigger. Regardless, you will feel the need to comment 'he's getting so big now' and/or 'look how grown up they both are!' as a conversation starter at any social gathering. Yawn.

5) You shout at your kids. At home. In the car. In Tesco. Yes it does all look a bit Jeremy Kyle. And no it doesn't ever solve the problem. But it's how you roll these days. You've made peace with your Inner Chav (see Lesson 37).

6) You also nag. Like a broken record of parent fussiness, repeating instructions that nobody (least of all your child) is listening to. Like 'can everybody just calm down a bit,' 'play NICELY' and 'we're not going anywhere until you stop whinging' (the latter being said as you leave the house whilst everybody is very much still whinging, because you are too weak to follow through with threats).

7) You care less about what you look like. Not all the time - sometimes you will care more. You will care quite a lot if you are going to come into contact with people who knew you before you incubated two small humans (your worst nightmare being them thinking you have 'let yourself go.') But daily life with kids gets in the way of self-maintenance, you will neglect to shave your legs, lazily throw that hoody on again (the comfy one with the baked beans stain), find yourself in your dressing gown at 6.45pm eating fish fingers straight off the baking tray and conclude that yes, you have indeed let yourself go a bit.

8) 'I'll never bribe my children' you once said. How's that working out for you? For 99% of us, bribery is the backbone of parenting. Behind every good child is a Percy Pig biscuit, right? The remaining 1% are using some kind of witchcraft or sorcery. [See also, 'We won't let them watch too much TV.' HA HA HA HA].

9) You use baby talk, giving every object a nickname. Milk become 'milkies,' bottle becomes 'bot bots,' nappies become 'nap naps' and soft toys/comforters become 'snuggies' or 'bunnykins.' Just the other day I said to my husband (and I quote) 'If you sort out his bot bots, I'll change his nap naps and find his snuggies.' WHAT A TWAT.

10) You over-share your kids' lives on social media. Pictures, milestones, their weekly schedule. We're probably all guilty at times. You want the world to see how beautiful your baby is and the flood of likes and comments reaffirms this. The problem is, people already appreciated his beauty when you posted that last picture...two hours ago. You will be more likely to dominate your friends' news feeds with your first child, who will be posed for endless portrait shots (subsequent neglected children are photographed solely by a blurry iPhone). If this is you, I'm just going to be honest for a second. Whilst the third tooth or unaided roll-over is a milestone for the family, I think it's a fair assumption that nobody else is quite as interested.

Though if you know me personally you can expect upcoming pictures of my eldest next week when he turns three, alongside 'Can't believe how big he is' statuses or similar. I appreciate that there have been 1,095 days since his birth so it's not all that surprising that he has got bigger. 
But he is my baby *sobs into newborn photos*.

The Unmumsy Mum

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Lesson 45: Your Day vs His Day - Why Nobody Is Winning

When Monday morning arrives, I sometimes look at the week stretching out in front of me and think, 'Oh GOD.' 

My husband's alarm goes off, he gets up, has a shower and gets ready for work. My alarm these days is The Toddler, who sneaks into our bed and loudly asks 'Are you awake Mummy? My pyjama bottoms are wet. I can't find my fire engine. Can I have some Weetos?' If I'm really lucky a series of recorded minion farts will be the first thing I hear when I wake up, as the Fart Blaster from Despicable Me 2 is activated next to my head. Waking the baby up. FML.

And the morning circus begins...

'Have a good day' I sneer at said husband as he leaves the house. On time. Without juggling a car seat and pram base combo to the car. Without worrying if he's got enough baby wipes. Sometimes listening to actual music on an iPod. Bastard.

Back in the land of the living room, at least one half of my offspring is kicking off and I am left wondering whether 08:35 is too early for Toy Story 3, or whether I should wait to see what's coming up on Lorraine instead...and more to the point, I'm left pondering the same daily conundrum. What the actual fuck am I going to do with them all day?
Yep. Monday again. 
Currently on maternity leave, at least once a day I declare 'I wish I was going to work.' Whilst most days this is not untrue (you'll have gathered by now I have neither the patience nor the all-round maternal vibe required to be a Stay At Home Mum), I have also come to realise that an ongoing 'my day is harder than your day' debate doesn't actually make either of you feel any better....

Jealousy towards his freedom to leave the house each day is somewhat misguided by the memory of what the working day is like before children. Work may well be like a holiday at times (see Lesson 41) but it is still work. Which he now has to undergo on significantly less sleep. And when his shift is finished he no longer comes back to a quiet house, puts Sky Sports News on and has a cold beer. He comes home to you. Crying. Telling him you hate being at home. You hate your life. Telling him you're at breaking point and no you don't know what's for fucking tea because you HAVEN'T EVEN HAD A SHOWER.

Sure he gets to 'escape' at 08.25. And yes you are bored to tears by 09.25. But how good does he truly have it? Does he even like his job? He might be bored at work. He might wake up on Monday morning, look at the week stretching out in front of him and think 'I wish I was staying at home.' You have NO IDEA, you'll tell him. Well, no, he doesn't have any idea what being at home all day every day is like. But you don't really know what working full time and coming home to Hurricane Wife is like either.

I moan about being at home quite a bit. Okay I moan about it A LOT. But even for die-hard work fans there is something undeniably liberating about being master of your own schedule. If you choose to, you can simply decide at 2pm on a Tuesday that you fancy a trip to the library. And go. Admittedly you won't get there until 4pm because it is impossible to leave the sodding house with kids in less than 90 minutes... but the point is, to a certain extent, you decide what you do with your time. It's the children who roll the behaviour dice and decide how successful that trip is. So you both answer to somebody, but the boss breathing down his neck is much bigger. And can't be bribed with raisins. 

So maybe the grass really isn't always greener on the work side. Some days it is. Some days it isn't. Some days one of you has a distinct advantage. Some days you both lose. The only certainty is that unless you are genuinely considering addressing the work/home divide (and re-allocating roles), the constant 'my day is worse than yours' debate will roll on forever, which doesn't help anyone. What is more helpful is to crack open a bottle of wine on Friday night and agree you have both had a rough week. 

Important notes for the worker:
- If the baby is teething or if anybody at home is poorly, you definitely have the better deal being at work. 
- Don't pretend you have any idea what it is like to take a crying baby to the doctors for his injections accompanied by a toddler who has switched to arsehole mode. Truly, she has lived through hell that day. 
- If she is having a Mumzilla day, cut her some slack. She doesn't really hate you. Or the kids. Or the house. Or her life. But she is at (temporary) breaking point. Those abusive sweary texts messages aren't her new hobby but sometimes she can't stop herself. Don't tell her you have had a hard day. Or sigh. In fact, on those days, it's best not to breathe near her. It's nothing personal, but she might want to smack you in the face. 
- Finally, never ever ask what she has been doing all day. Or if your work shirts have been washed. She hasn't even washed herself. You know where the washing machine is.

And for those holding the fort at home...
I know it's bloody annoying when he says 'but I've been at work all day' but he has been at work. All day. And he never ever gets to sunbathe during toddler nap time. Or watch Judge Rinder in his PJs on a Thursday. Just admit that there are some small perks. 

Though if my husband is reading this, your youngest son shat through three layers of clothes this morning, and your wife cried in the shower and is at her wits' end with Star Wars toddler role play because she is always sodding Yoda. So a cup of tea is the least you can do. 

The Unmumsy Mum

[Note: this post contains the sweeping generalisation that the mum of the household is at home on Kids Duty more than the dads is, which might not be the case. You might also, of course, be a single parent. In which case, massive respect. I am writing purely based on the dynamic in our house...] 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Lesson 44: The Parenting Resolutions We Can't Keep (F**k You SuperMum)

Following the birth of Boy Two in September, I spent the last few months of 2014 feeling frazzled. And short-tempered. In fact, I spent at least two-thirds of Autumn/Winter 2014 sat in my dressing-gown watching Kids' TV eating bourbons. 

I'm never one for New Year's Resolutions, but I woke up on January 1st this year and decided I would make a few changes to my parenting behaviours. Perhaps I was feeling virtuous due to the complete lack of hangover - though this was less out of choice and more out of an obligation not to intoxicate the breast milk with Prosecco. Whatever the inspiration, 2015 would not be a repeat of the bourbon-eating Nickelodeon marathons. With Spring around the corner and the end of maternity leave in sight, I would do SO much more with the kids. 

My parenting ambitions for 2015 were as follows:
The children would watch less TV. 
I would spend less than 20 hours a day on my iPhone. 
Biscuits would not be used as bribes. In fact, biscuits wouldn't really be needed at all because we would all be snacking on blueberries and humous.
There would be long walks. And wellies. There would be cake-baking. There would be finger painting and puzzle solving and fucking den building. 2015 would be the year of the SuperMum. 

How's that working out for you? I hear you wonder. Well, February is here so I can now officially provide a progress report on those ambitions for the month of January. Here's how I'm getting on...

The children do not watch less TV. Sometimes I fear we are watching even more (slight digression but what the fuck is the point of Bubble Guppies? Why do kids like that shit? Meh).

I still check my phone an unacceptable amount of times throughout the day...though I have started leaving it at home if we go out for the day.

Biscuits are still used as bribes. Daily (hourly). Toddler bribes have also been upgraded to doughnuts and CBeebies magazines. I know, I know. Awful parenting tactic. But it works and I'm bloody knackered so it's staying. 

There haven't been many long walks if truth be told. Okay there has only been one. But we wore wellies! And explored a forest. And the toddler brought back some sticks from the forest which he pretended were hunting harpoons so he's practically Bear Grylls now. 

Me and my Bear (and what long hair really looks like when it is windy)
There has been zero cake-baking because he can do that at the child-minder's and I don't want extra dishes. 

I haven't even bought any paints yet, and puzzles are too bloody annoying (half the Peppa Pig mega-puzzle is now up the hoover, plus Boy One follows his 'own' picture rather than the one on the box, which I simply cannot tolerate). 

So I've failed, right? The Year of the SuperMum fell flat in January?

Well yes, it did. But I am TOTALLY at peace with this and I'll tell you for why. 

SuperMum is an arse. She is entirely fabricated. A pretend patchwork of Cath Kidston dresses and superfood smoothies and 4x4 school-run vehicles and Mary Berry cookbooks. SuperMum can be found on the Joules website. SuperMum looks something like THIS:
God I love her (pic via Sunday Express)
I want to BE her. Her skinny jeans, her casual gilet and styled-to-look-messy hair. SHE HAS A FUCKING CHICKEN. 

SuperMum never gets cross. She spends hours taking her kids on adventures. Her house smells of fruitcake. She has two kids (one of each, obviously) and they never watch telly unless it is a snow day when they drink hot chocolate under a tartan blanket because she is so much fucking fun. 

Well the reality for most of us is something altogether different. 

I'd love to take my kids on 'an adventure' every day. And bake some gingerbread. And make Tracy Island out of washing up bottles. Truly I would. But on an average weekday the toddler charges around at 100mph shouting 'I AM BUZZ LIGHTYEAR' and I have to battle with four loads of washing because some nappies do not do their job and the baby has been sick and the home insurance renewal needs posting and stuff needs sterilising and I need a shower because three days' worth of Dry Shampoo has created an unsightly white build up....on these days I cannot be arsed to go on a sodding adventure or facilitate messy play in a house which already looks like Hurricane Rita has struck it. 

So I whisk the kids to the park (again) for a quick blast of fresh air and then I come home and put the telly on. And give the toddler a biscuit. And check Facebook for an hour. 

That's real life, people. So I don't feel guilty. In fact, that's the way I like it. 

I bloody hate chickens anyway.

The Unmumsy Mum