Monday, 1 December 2014

Nursery Rhymes

Boo is utterly obsessed with nursery rhymes. She has several anthologies, some obscure rhymes appearing but always the same classics. She's learning to sing along and do the actions, she tells me 'tick tock' when she wants hickory dickory dock, she goes one two dee da dough for once I caught a fish alive and loves to exclaim 'why?!' Because it bit my finger so. She makes crazy swimming motions for incy wincy spider getting washed out, flashing hands for twinkle twinkle, she even stands up in preparation to become a little tea pot, short and stout. Her favourite this week is to search through every page asking 'where da baa baa?' for Baa Baa Black Sheep.

It is adorable to watch her so excited, but I am personally quite bored with these ryhmes and wish someone would invent some new songs for children. Maybe modernised too, because no one ever sits on a tuffet, I'm not sure eating curds and whey is very good dietary advice, and should we be teaching our children to expect the kings horses and men to help them when they have a fall?

I feel like I am teaching her about an entirely unrealistic, ridiculous and actually quite gruesome world. I mean, I have to skip goosey gander as I just can't make light of chucking an old man down the stairs because of his religious beliefs. I sometimes add a small disclaimer at the end of these kind of rhymes, although I don't think Boo finds them quite as entertaining as I do, and I wonder if other parents are so cynical. Reading nursery rhymes because I have to gives me the same guilty feeling I know I will get when I have to invent Santa Claus. The peer pressure and her beaming smile makes me do it, but it's all lies!

So here follows some disclaimers to the universe, because I know that what I'm reading out is silly and I want you to know that I know that:

- Rock a bye baby on the tree top. Just don't ever ever do this, it is highly dangerous.

- Humpty Dumpty. What is this, an egg man? Why did he think it would be a good idea to sit up on a high wall if he is an EGG?!

- Ring a ring a roses. This song is about the Black Death and it sounds like a lovely song with beautiful illustrations but the image in my mind is always a mass grave of decaying bodies.

- The old woman who lived in a shoe was lucky she didn't also live in current times. She would otherwise be living in a prison cell, charged with neglect, her children would be in care and the Daily Mail would be loving it. The shoe house would make a great episode on Grand Designs though. 

- Three blind mice. As if they didn't have it bad enough, poor little creatures, it is a cruel, cruel world.

- Sing a song of sixpence. A great anti-anthem for socialists and vegetarians like me. The king and queen have a jolly nice time while the animals and poor people get baked alive and facially disfigured.

Come to think of it, most nursery rhymes involve praising the rich and the royal, aspiring to be like them, or else being a poor person living in a crooked house with not even a penny to try a pie. It's a depressing read, and we're lucky we live in slightly more humane times. But in many ways the themes are still relevant, becoming even more relevant as the gap between rich and poor gets bigger.
Could life resemble the disparity and hopelessness of a nursery rhyme in Boo's generation? What can we do? Are these rhymes helpful? Maybe they were to the mothers who first sang them, so aware yet so powerless to the random unfairness, with a baby in their arms, it gives me the shivers.

I think for now I will keep trying to skip the most unsavoury rhymes, aware that they exist, but focussing on the happy ones. The owl and the pussy cat in love, the spider who won't give up, the wonder of the stars. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

I am also a hairdresser

I was not always such a great hairdresser. It takes time and practice.

True story: my first hair cutting experience took place when aged 7, sleeping over at Eric's house. In the middle of the night I decided it would be great if we cut each other's hair. Eric was up for it. In the morning his mum gave us a puzzled look, then we snuck off to school all dishevelled and proud. 

But my mum knew every wave of my lovely golden locks. At home time that day I felt the heat of her glare from across the playground. It was an especially angry glare because that was also the day of our school photo.

I had oft been told how beautiful and golden my hair was. Total strangers would stop us in the street. The man in the corner shop always asked if he could buy it. 'Pure Gold!' he would exclaim. So naturally that's why I cut it off and stored it in my pencil case. I have always had a knack for business. 

My mum did not quite agree when I explained my genius plan to her, even after offering her 50% of the profits. I thought we were poor and could do with some extra money, so why was she still upset?

 I eventually forgave my mum for her lack of enterprise, I never stayed over at Eric's house again, and that particular corner shop closed down, it never had the chance to be a white girls weave empire.

Back to the now, and I have become a much better hairdresser, more for the necessity of saving money rather than making any. As pictured here, one can see I have mastered a cute bob with only slightly wonky fringe. There's something Partridge-Family-ish to it. 

I take it my wriggly client is a happy customer as she's always so pleased when I've finished.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

I am not the sun

To Boo I am the sun. Her source of light and energy, the bringer of all food and rhythm and happiness. And I admit to basking in my own sheer brilliance as creator and provider of all things, in our little microcosm. But a valuable lesson has been taught me by the universe at large this week. I am nobody's sun.

My energy is not infinite and I am not all powerful. Lying on the floor all week with chronic back pain and my friend Valium, I've had the time and lucidity of mind to think this through a bit. I am just an earth mother. My energy is borrowed and needs constant renewal. I need proper fuel, and a clean tip top vessel with which to channel it.

Sometimes as mothers we think we can do it all because quite often we do. I am constantly in awe of us. But with so much to do we forget, or simply put off, the essential maintenance of ourselves. 

Examples: I slave over organic baby recipes while settling my grumbling tummy with crisps, my baby gets lathered with posh bubble bath every night, and I'm lucky if squirt myself with some liquid from poundland every morning. I shlep Boo to multiple sensory adventure groups where she can play and dance and make friends, but when do I ever go out dancing with my friends?

I am not actually complaining about this mode of lifestyle. I like crisps and poundland and staying at home on a Saturday night. It is my choice but it's a lazy choice and in the end it is self destructive. 

I am too busy to bend my knees every time I pick up my gargantuan toddler, too lazy to buy proper comfortable shoes, too tired to stretch my muscles every evening. Too cheap to treat myself to a massage. As a result I've crippled myself for at least a week, cbeebies has replaced sensory adventure time while I lie very still on a hard wooden floor, and there will be no more organic since I now need very expensive osteopathic treatment. 

It's not just me that suffers if I don't look after myself. Life becomes pretty boring and depressing for a child when their parents are too sick to look after them. And I'm not just talking about back pain. In an ideal world we would all address our physical and mental health issues before they become problems for ourselves and the people around us. Prevention is the cure. 

When I'm sick I'm not a very good parent. It's completely illogical that the reason I'm sick is because I've been trying so hard to be a good parent. I have a feeling this conundrum speaks true for the vast majority of women out there, we are the carers of the world.

So now I know that looking after my self is just as important as looking after my child. I have to be strong, healthy and happy, because running myself into the ground is a false economy and just not an option. Who has the time or money to keep lying on the floor and paying for quick fixes? But I think we as mothers can all stretch to this:

- Proper supportive shoes. Look, only the baby and other mums are gonna see them so get over it.

- Proper comfy pillow. Ahhhhh.

- Regular massage. Essential!

- Stretching every morning and evening. Could be combined with telly watching!

- Just don't buy crisps, then there's no reason to eat them. Snack on fruit instead.

- Leave the house, see some friends, have a laugh, realise you are not as crazy as you thought you were, feel better.

- Sometimes the Boo doesn't need to be carried. Sometimes she is fine to play by herself so I can just chillax for 5 minutes. A bit of aggro at the beginning, but in the long run she will respect me a lot more for respecting myself, and will therefore grow up to respect herself, thus breeding a lovely cycle of respectfulness!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Shelter (in London?)

Home: a basement flat in a converted victorian house, originally meant for storage and not for living in. But in 2014 this is a 'well-situated conversion', which is cheap for London but still out of our budget and it's a miracle they let us rent it.

But despite its price, the summer ants, the damp bits, the faulty fridge and single glazing, we really love it, because it's the first place that feels like home.

In our situation we are incredibly lucky to even have a home. I know there are so many unexpected parents forced into temporary shelters, with no hope of a council flat, no relatives to lend them deposits or donate furniture. But it is ridiculous to say that having your basic needs met is 'lucky'. All children deserve to grow up in a stable environment, to have friends at a local school and parents that are not wracked with stress and depression from living life constantly on the edge of destitution. Sadly this is far from the reality faced by hundreds of London families.

I'm not in this city 'because it's London', the adventure playground for rich people, with all it's restaurants and clubs and fabulous arty events. I'm here because here happens to be home, the city I work in and where my friends are. But it's quite clear that ordinary people are no longer welcome. I grew up in an amazing Central London social housing co-op, there's still a great sense of community there but no way of staying in the area if you don't end up earning £60,000+. There are no spare flats in that co-op, and no chance of getting one if there was. Believe me I have tried.

We've lived in 4 different places since Boo was born 20 months ago, and it's always bittersweet when I meet a mum in the area or make a new friend, because we'll probably have to move and the friendship won't last. I've lost count of how many library cards I've got in my purse, and the number of baby groups I've been to.

I've never migrated out of London though but since we're living in zone 4 now there's an obvious direction I'm going in. It's just too expensive to stay. 'Affordable housing' makes me feel like crap because I can't even afford it. I haemorrhage at least 10 quid just leaving my house everyday. Even the great free stuff in London (museums, etc) cost loads to travel to, it's a mission with a buggy, it's too crowded to see anything anyway and then the cafe rips you off.  You have to be stupid or stupidly rich to put up with it all.

But what else is there when it's all that you know? It's where your friends and family and job are. We love the area that we live in, the garden and the proximity to the park and shops. And gradually we are making friends and might even feel part of a community, just in time for the rent to go up and for us to have to move further away to somewhere we can only just afford, again.

We have low-to-ordinary salaries and I don't think we're asking for much. The hope that we can settle in one place for a while, to hang up our coats, stick magnets on the fridge and plant some flowers. It could be anywhere, all I know is our future home is a long way from where home is now.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Mummy went to Edinburgh Fringe!

First things to point out about Edinburgh, the city:

1. It is cold. Even in August. It makes returning to London feel like arriving on a Greek island.

2. Lots of big old dirty buildings. All historic and what not.

3. Everyone says thank you to the bus driver.

Things to point out about holidaying without the Boo:

1. Just because the Boo isn't there doesn't mean it's a holiday. I am still owed a beach, ok.

2. It's not a good idea to look at too many photos of the Boo, or peruse the children's section of the programme, coz then the missing her gets worse.

3. Being myself without her is actually quite exhausting. I become possessed by the freedom, try to achieve too much and end up feeling sick. Like when I commute to work and become a mess of spotify, kindle, podcasts and snacks. I want it all. Combine this feeling with being at the biggest most super amazing theatre and comedy festival, with hundreds of routes to fun and laughs. My obsessiveness was annoying even myself.

4. On the plus side I abandoned all of my sense of direction and allowed R to guide me through the city. This was basically the blind leading the blind, because it's normally me who does all the concentrating on what's going on and where we are meant to be going. So while my feet were exhausted from all the excess walking in wrong directions, my mind was all floaty light.

How to accomodate oneself in Edinburgh

1. Sleeping and showering. Best done at the home of a relative, or boyfriend's relative. Even better done when the relatives are super amazing people with super cute cats. It's free, and then you can go shopping for thank you cards and candles, always a fun thing to do.

2. Or I dunno, rent something somewhere at an extortionately high price. This is the thing that performers bitch about the most, and rightly so. I feel pretty bad for them. Most of them have to put on a free show, they spend a fortune hiring venues and somewhere to sleep, they almost never break even, I'm not really sure why they bother. Except that they clearly really love what they do. Which brings me to my next point...

How to decide what shows to see:

1. For the locals it's a more free-flowing experience. They're not riding the same high of obsessiveness that I was. The ones I spoke to mainly go to the free shows, or hang around outside of venues, knowing that in a last minute bid to fill seats, a desperate promoter will offer them free tickets. They're also around longer to read the reviews and get recommendations.

2. Read the reviews. This doesn't work if you arrive on the opening weekend, like we did.

3. So I made my own judgements based on the tiny blurb and photo in the programme. It's amazing how brutally satisfying that can be.

4. Add the shows that you want to see to the Fringe App calendar. But then you realise how hard it is to keep to a schedule, or to squeeze in more that 3 shows a day when your other half is on a perpetual mission to find the best Scottish breakfast in town. So you end up only using the 'what's on nearby now' feature of the app, which is actually the best feature anyway. So you can peruse that and make a plan to actually see something, anything, nearby, while boyf is deliberating on the quality of his haggis.

5. If worse comes to worse you could just take one of the one million flyers that are enthusiastically shoved in your face at every third step. You could take it and read it and go to the show that it advertises. Or you could take it out of politeness, shove it in your poncho pocket, and recycle it when you get home three days later.

We only saw theatre and comedy. Apparently there's other stuff too like dance and music and film. But they're generally more expensive and less funny. We wanted the funny. So these are the shows that we actually did see, with a quick summary of their merits.

Richard Herring: the famous one. Stewart Lee was sold out so this was the next best thing. He's a bouncy guy with a passion for sombreros and feminism. What's not to love?

Bec Hill: Sweet Australian girl with a talent for pop up, interactive illustrations. A lot less pretentious and more fun than that sounds.

Rob Deb: My boyfriends friend. Actually quite funny, even if you're not an overgrown geeky teenager, wishing for the freedom to steal kettle leads.

Beans on Toast: A naive but still very likeable play about the intimate everyday ness of a relationship. Think musical version of One Day. Possibly owning the best theatrical msn chat scene ever. 

Normal/madness: The one where I cried. 11am is just too early to delve into the realities of having a parent with schizophrenia. This was beautifully crafted theatre and storytelling.

Charles Booth: Sketch comedy of insanely strange and detailed characters. Maxwell was my fave. Definitely the most talented actor of our whole weekend, likely to be going places that are good.

Birthday Girls: The ones most likely to be seen on TV very soon. Simply put, they are THE female comedy sketch group of the now. Loved the ironic sexy dancing in between sketches.

Sarah Bennetto: Another one of boyfriend's friends. A funeral themed show, which wasn't quite ready yet so we were treated to a funeral workshop/rehearsal. I thought the fart joke worked quite well, and was impressed with the mournful Owen Wilson impression.

The comedy road show type affairs: Saw a couple of these, don't remember many names oops but I did enjoy the Greek lady Katerina with all the hair, the Dutch girl and the friendly ghost, and the guy who wrote the greatest beard justification monologue ever. This guy also does a great, bitter dressing down of the middle class, which I think we all needed, as the Fringe is just one giant bubble of white middle class problems, all shiny and celebrated. I did some research on this guy coz I can't just keep calling him this guy when his set was so good. Phil Jerrod. Thank you internet. 

So we got there, we saw, ate, and walked a lot. We looked forward to our cosy sleeper train bed home again. Except we hadn't realised we needed to specifically book a bed on the sleeper train. Why the hell would you make a train called sleeper if you can't guarantee sleep??!! I am too old to sleep in an upright position then greet my grumpy toddler and then go to work the same day and call it an adventure. I'm done with inter rail and coaches to Poland and self discovery. If I have discovered anything about myself from this trip it is this: I want to be horizontal and on top of something soft between the hours of midnight and 7am. Preferably longer. 

Edinburgh was awesome. Now I refer to my earlier point, I need a holiday.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Holiday! Idiosyncracities of our home

Dear Mum


Thank you so much for looking after the lovely little lady while we run off to Scotland to support the eccentricities of poor starving artists. Here are a few tips and hints for survival in our flat. Good luck!


Gate: To close it from the outside is a bit fiddly and the gate has to be not quite closed completely for the lock to turn!


Front door: Please double lock it,otherwise if we get robbed it invalidates the already slim chance of our insurance company doing what they’re paid to do.

Neighbours: We have nice neighbours. Even though one of them spat on me but that was an accident and we’re friends now. I don’t remember all of their names or which numbers they’re at. I don’t have their phone numbers in case of an emergency. I might be friends with one of them on Twitter though…

TV: Dont watch it live coz we don't own a TV licence. We have Netflix, 4od and iplayer. Hmm, too complicated to explain this all so best to call us for instructions. We keep the bean bag in front of the TV to stop Boo whacking the screen. It is quite effective.

Our Bedroom: We had to take the door handle off when Richard got stuck in there and had to climb out the window! We normally keep Boo out of our room coz there's often too much stuff for her to play with and destroy. Good luck doing that without the handle. The baby monitor is in there, however someone changed it to German and we can’t figure out how to fix it.

Kitchen: keep things away from the edge of the surfaces coz Boo will grab them. Keep the bin turned around coz she will try to get in there! Always use the child locks on the fridge and cupboards! If left alone in the kitchen Boo will most likely do some laundry of bits and bobs that she finds in the flat, this can become annoying if the bits and bobs are your phone and keys, and also annoying because the washing machine cycle lasts for hours, all the settings seem to be the same.


Food: I have left some ‘I can’t remember what’s in this’ moosh, corn on the cobs, savoury muffins, sweet muffins, strawberries in the fridge for Boo. There’s also peas and fish fingers in the freezer, and more moosh and muffins in pots in the freezer. Rotate these items with milk and that is her diet.

Bathroom: the door is very sticky, you need to push the handle down and kick it open. But the door needs to stay closed unless you want to scoop shampoo bottles out of the toilet and wipe shaving foam out of Boo's hairProbably not a good idea to shut the door if you’re in there by yourself and without a phone, as there is no window (see the example listed under ‘Our Bedroom’). There is a child lock on the toilet that we never use. If it ends up being locked by you know who, to open it there are 2 little levers on either side to push up. The hot tap and shower needs to run for quite a while until it gets hot.


Outside: It’s tricky getting the buggy up and down the stairs. We normally leave it outside during the day (unless raining), and bring it in at night, hoping no wild animals made their nest in there. Her red trike is under the black cover, she loves going to the park in it, although she says she can’t reach the pedals so uses the footrests and has a great time. It’s second hand so came with a free rattling sound and a tendency to veer left.


The playgroup – £3 entry, it’s a toddler's dream, lots of fun and with a safe garden, unlike the park playground where toddlers regularly lunge their heads towards the feet of big kids on swings.


Other things: Well obviously the damp and general mouldiness that you already know about. Call me with any questions and for regular updates. I will try a lot harder this weekend to remember where my phone is and to answer it.


Well that was exhausting just to write about. But I’m sure you will have a great time with lots of smiles and cuddles to make up for the frustrating bits!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Boyhood and Boo-hood, a sort of review

So I went to the cinema this week and saw a really great film, Boyhood, made over 12 years, tracing the fictional story of one (very likeable) family.

By now everyone on the planet knows how great this film is, so I wont go on about it. It just made me want to say some things about time.

When I saw Boyhood I hadn't been to the cinema in over a year, that is how much my life and priorities have changed since Boo. Last time was at the Ritzy Big Scream, when Boo was tiny and would feed and sleep and sit happily for me to watch whatever I wanted.

I should have gone to the cinema more often in those days, although I don't regret the countless days spent breastfeeding and watching the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It provided escapism and joy at a time when time seemed relentless and monotony was taking over.

But even I couldn't watch Buffy all the time. In those days I would often just gaze out of the window. Not because I was bored. Sometimes you can just feel time pulling you, the moment you're in is so fleeting, there's nothing you can do except stop and stare. We meet the boy in Boyhood when he is staring out the window during school. His mum is worried about him, and he can't really explain to her why he does it.

Now, Boo is 18 months old. Everything is different again. And everything I watch comes with a large amount of patience, waiting for Netflix to add a film, then waiting for an evening or nap time when I don't have a gazillion more important things to do. This time I made the time to go to the cinema to see something that I felt would be time well spent.

I didn't read any reviews about Boyhood, mainly because I don't have the time. I am a sucker for stars though, being a Netflix addict, these days I will not watch anything without at least 4 stars. The stars on the movie poster, given by newspapers that are not red tops, and magazines that are not Grazia, are the deal breakers.

There is something to be said about maturity and the need for quality. Quite often quality is on someone else's terms, which we adopt as our own, maybe because we have spent too much time watching crappy films. The mother in Boyhood seeks out a rich husband who she thinks will complete her family and give them a better quality of life. When did she stop believing in the things she felt when she was younger, the things that drew her to the free-spirited father in the story, but who wasn't ready to play the provider.

Even though the film is called Boyhood, it's really just about growing up, getting older, whatever age or gender you are. I found myself intensely interested in his parents and their choices, they represent the universal worry and guilt and pride and love that parents have every day. I think that everyone who loves this film does so because they see themselves and their family reflected at them, and the stages of struggle and realisation that ebb and flow through all of us. The story and premise is simple, but the simplest ideas are often the most effective.

And it's a really long film. Not Titantic long, but almost. At the start I was reaching for the remote, freaking out that the volume was too loud and it would wake Boo. Oh yeah. But do it several more times until it sinks in. Then towards the end I was starting to get back pains from too much sitting. And I wanted to check my texts and make sure I wouldn't be late for dinner. I felt bad for shifting around so much, I knew it would be over soon and then I'd be sorry. Isn't it hard to just enjoy what you have, when there's all these other niggling things happening around you, distracting you, then poof it's all gone.

When the mum in Boyhood laments towards the end, when her son goes away to college, 'I thought there would be more', I thought of all the times that I felt annoyed at Boo or at moments in my day for being annoying in some way. Not quite right. Toys all over the place, every night putting them back just so they can be strewn across the floor again. Wasting my time. Doing laundry all the time. Wash hang fold repeat. And then before I know it I've given all of her toys away because she has outgrown them, and then she's not living here and the only clothes that I fold are my own.

So there, I went to see a film to escape the hum-drum of laundry cycles and I end up missing the cycles and the hum-drum because that's where life happens. In-between all the crap bits and confusing bits, painful bits and crazy bits.  They make you worry and want to find answers, but in the end, there isn't always a reason, a right thing to do, just an awareness of the moment. That is all.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Why Boo doesn't wear pink

This pink issue has circulated in our home since before Boo was born. R is adamantly against pink because of it's associations with stereotypes of women being submissive, passive, focused on appearance, made for domestic chores, etc. We talk a lot about it and read articles on the matter. There's definitely a back lash against pink now, some people think we should reclaim it as a strong feminist colour, other people don't see the harm in letting 'girls be girls'.

I've over thought the whole problem now. But we've come to the agreement that while we have some control of Boo's fashion statements, we choose to make the statement that it's ok for girls to not wear pink. It's ok for a girl to be anything at all. It's ok for a girl to not go along with the status quo, of what the marketeers tell us 'a girl should be'. I see so many little girls dressed as a stereotype, I'm shamelessly using my daughter to make a political stand in the playground.

Pink and Blue. It's a way of marking out the difference between the sexes, and obviously there are differences. But do we need to be colour coded? It makes the difference between boys and girls more obvious, and in a world where segregation and sexism is still rife, surely pointing out our differences all the flipping time is counter productive. We're all humans after all with equal rights to explore the world, try out all the different roles and experiences it has to offer. If we feel pressured to associate ourselves with our gender, a colour, and a host of other gendered activities and experiences (baby dolls for girls, building bricks for boys), we all miss out on getting to know the whole picture, and really getting to know each other.

And, it's not just a case of pink being different to blue, the problem is that pink is seen as a bad colour by many men, whereas blue is seen by everyone as just another colour. From little boys, older boys, teenage boys to men, our society has drip fed them the idea that girls are lesser creatures than they are (cue examples of music videos, gta5, percentage of female CEOs), and if there's a colour to go along with that creature, they sure as hell don't want any association with it. They don't want to be mistaken for a girl. Parents don't want their boys to be mistaken for a girl, or for their boy to mistake themselves for a girl. I sold a highchair recently on Gumtree, and one mother asked me "is there any pink in the pattern because I want it for my son". Sadly, I don't think she was implying that she wanted there to be pink for her son because her son really likes pink.

I regularly dress Boo in blue, green, red, all other colours that are not pink. If she's not wearing pink she will normally be mistaken for a boy. But I don't take offence to it (I just think the person making the mistake is unimaginative). I can't help thinking that if a boy is mistaken for a girl, many parents would be upset, disappointed, angry. Some people are enlightened about the fact that girls are equal to boys, and that pink is just a colour and it doesn't matter if your child looks like a boy or girl at such a young age. But the majority of people don't question their own in built prejudices, or they don't question all the brands and adverts that endlessly target us and force us into pink or blue boxes. So there will be many children who feel the pressure to conform to gender stereotypes because their parents conform in the same way. They may well fear and outcast any of their peers who don't conform to their stereotypes, because it shakes the foundations on which their gender identity is built. So, when the time comes for Boo to make friends, it is highly likely that she will want to wear pink. Whether it's because she genuinely likes pink, or she wants to wear pink because it gives her a safe 'identity as a girl', or because she wants to fit in. We wont know, and neither will she.

We've agreed that we'll let her have pink and 'girly' things, to an extent, if she chooses them, because ultimately she has to understand the freedom of choice. But I can only hope that with time, and with our (mostly sensible) guidance, she will understand these things too:

1. That true friends don't require you to look the same as they do. True friends like you for who you really are, not for what you wear and the colours you like.

2. Your identity as a woman in the world might be a tricky thing to quantify. And that's not a bad thing. You're not a two dimensional being, you change and grow and it can be scary. It's easy to buy into someone else's prepackaged identity of what a women should be, because then you don't have to think about it. But it won't really be you, and you'll have to keep on buying 'pink' things to keep the fantasy of your identity in tact.

3. You can like whatever damn colour you like. All colours are part of the same thing in the end, white light. The sun. And the sun is awesome, just make sure you wear sun cream.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Why child care doesn't work

Boo tried nursery for 3 months. It was ok. I never felt like she Loved it though, she was fine when I left her, but burst into tears every time I collected her. Like 'where have you beeeen?!'. She didn't eat much of their food, and was probably watching TV quite a lot (they call it quiet time). It's ok for me to let her watch TV on occasion, but not for someone who's paid to look after her. In the three months she was there she had a runny nose the entire time, so all the time I had left with her was spent wiping snot or trying to find tissues to wipe snot. Needless to say she also took quite a few days off due to various bugs she caught there. In total, the money we wasted on those missed days cost us the exact same amount of profit we were taking home from working. A total waste of time of money.

I did a lot of childminder research and the results of that weren't so great either. They're just as expensive as nursery, if not more. What would be the point of working if I only have £10 profit left from the day?!

One childminder had a dog, the type that teenage boy gang members like, locked in the garden. So that was a no. I was also expected to pay fees while we were on holiday And while the childminder was on holiday. Double no.

Another I visited was on the 6th floor with no lift, a death trap balcony and greeted me in their living room whilst watching Jeremy Kyle. Again, no.

The last had an ADHD 10 year old son and a messy flat with really oppressive hospital type lighting. 

I sort of gave up after all that. And besides, even if I found the perfect child care, we exist on one income so Daddy is daycare for now. It's free, he takes care of Boo when she's ill, he gets the shopping in, and with some persuasion even comes on holiday with us.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Reasons to have another baby

I am not actually considering having another baby for real. That would be ridiculous. But I have become very interested in the reasons why people decide that subjecting themselves to double the amount of torture is a good idea.

Here are my personal most favoured reasons (which coming from a sleep-deprived mind may not be entirely sound):

- increasing the longevity of this blog. I've grown quite attached to rambling.

- Well I've got all the stuff now, highchair, buggy, car seat, cot, a billion toys and a trillion clothes. And most of its hardly been used. I'm not one for wasting anything.

- As much as I hate the things to be hated about being a parent, I love the things to be loved a lot lot more. Apparently it only gets better with 2.

- They can play together. Thus finally leaving me free to do my own things (ha, as if)

- I'm intrigued to see what another Boo would be like. Another version of the same genes. I'm a big fan of science. 

- If it's a boy then he can still get away with wearing most of Boos old clothes (there are some benefits to being fierce anti-gender-stereotype-types)

- A planned second baby is a sure sign that we've made it in life. Proof we have risen up from the hard times and messiness of the unplanned first one, now with jobs a flat and the impression that we know what we're doing.

- I want another crack at the childbirth thing, I think I could do a lot better next time now I know what to expect. Basically, start the gas & air asap then demand an epidural at the correct time, read magazines while pushing. Simples.

- Also ickle babies are soooo cute, and I kinda miss all the cooing attention from strange old ladies.

I think the reality though, is we're still a long way off from being financially and emotionally stable as a family to bring another sweet living thing into our crazy world. 

But, I want Boo to have a sibling, I promised her that I won't subject her to the same lonely hell I went through as an only child. So, with any luck there will be another baby one day, but its certainly not in the pipeline (or fallopian tube?!).

Tiny Baby Boo :-)

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Why I can't do a serious job

In my experience of working, I've noticed two distinct types of job. The one where you have to be serious and the one where you can be yourself.

Owing to the inescapable fact that I'm apparently one of those 'kooky people', I am inclined towards the latter job type. Motherhood is a great example of this, as you child demands you, you do it best when you are yourself. 

My favourite, most beautiful, unserious employer

Sadly mothering doesn't pay the rent, and serious jobs do, albeit requiring you to be a better, more efficient, compliant, driven, customer focused person than you really are.

But part of me really does want the thrill of climbing a ladder, the security of a pension and an easier time when filling out forms (credit card applications, etc). I sometimes catch this part of me applying for serious jobs. I even ended up with one.

The architects firm where I currently work is a prime example of a job where I (and the others who work there) must pretend to be professional at all times and appear to be genuinely concerned about the welfare of the company and clients, at the expense of my own health and sanity. The part of me that wants a serious job such as this was recently overturned by the bigger part of me, who came to the logical conclusion of 'screw this'. And so I decided to leave.

I also decided, sick from all the unrealistic person specs I've been reading, to write a job specification. If a job wants me, this is the criteria it must adhere to:

- I can stay home and look after Boo if she's ill without feeling guilty
- I can take a lunch break without feeling guilty
- Not stressful
- Not commuting into central London
- Maximum 4 days per week
- Overtime is paid
- Worth doing (ie not pointless/destructive to the planet)
- Co-workers & directors are nice, down to earth people
- Casual dress code

It is completely ridiculous that to get by in life and not face total destitution, we as humans must repackage ourselves and often go against the things we are good at, giving up a large portion of our time on the planet to the whim of someone else, often for a cause that is unnecessary. You might say, "well tough this is the way things are, you're lucky to even have a job". I don't believe we should settle for things when we know we can do better. Society can do better than offer crappy minimum wage toilet scrubbing jobs to people who are capable of much more, but simply unable to find something else. Lucky are those who genuinely enjoy their jobs and find meaning in them.

My ideal summer outfit for work (coconut optional).

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Work means...

My 'nice easy part time' job has become a lot meaner, harder and more full time. The honeymoon is over. It's suddenly dawning on me what work life really means.

Work means giving up 12 hours of my life everyday and getting paid for 7.5 of them, not including overtime because 'it's expected.'

Work means bringing home only £60 more per week than if I wasn't working at all

Work means helping other people progress in their careers and have more money while I remain in the assistant, junior, low paid, dogs body role

Work means making other people cups of tea then getting dragged into another task while my own tea gets cold

Work means leaving my child all sad and teething like hell, knowing she misses me and doesn't want me to walk out the door in the morning

Work means getting home too late to kiss her goodnight

Work means being a commuter among millions, spending 2 hours a day on transport, spending at least an hour of my pay for the privilege

Work means applying for other work, spending hours on each application only to be rejected and ignored

Work means worrying about things that are not important or worth caring about

Work means closing my mind and snapping at ordinary, good people, other commuters, shop assistants, my family, people who don't deserve it

Work means being the one who is snapped at

Work means just surviving, not living

Work means being around people who have two incomes, their own homes, holidays booked, time to go out for drinks, cash to go out for lunch

Work means coming home to a frazzled daycare boyfriend, trying to get to grips with his new house husband role and feeling frustrated about also not pursuing his goals

Work means feeling inadequate and guilty, not knowing what I'm doing anymore, and having no energy or spirit left to think about it

Work just isn't working for me. But what else is there?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Being poor is the same but different

We're about to go from an 'only-just-surviving' to a 'not-sure-we-can-survive' income. I would have thought that having a degree, years of experience and a demanding full time job that I dislike would qualify us for a slightly nicer life. It turns out that I am wrong. So, in our effort to cut costs we took a (somewhat deflated) trip to Aldi and discovered our favourite brands for way cheaper! We spent £35 in total, a huge saving compared to the usual £60+ at Sainsburys....

ok, so maybe the brands are not exactly the same, but the thing I've learnt from being skint is that appearances are deceptive, and mostly people can hardly ever tell...

See, we can still enjoy Ambrosia, Tropicana, Helmann's, Special K and the New York Bagel Co. Or at least something similar.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Still on the breadline

We found out yesterday that we are not entitled to any benefits. This is sort of a good thing as I really don't want to be on benefits but I also don't want to be poor and working hard just to survive and end up with nothing left over. Which is essentially what we are doing. Surviving on £600 per week to pay for all rent, bills, childcare, travel and food, which is soon to decrease to £400 when R's contract ends (although eliminating childcare costs because Daddy Daycare is free).

So the idea of having no money (despite working!) is depressing. Hence I'm trying to figure out how to earn more money. Especially as now my job may be on the line too, great. For the first time ever I let Boo watch CBeebies, so I could finish a job application. The distraction of 20 minutes was perfect, thank you In The Night Garden, although this may turn into a curse later on...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

This is so much harder...

Having a child is so much harder than I though it would be. Not that I really thought about it much anyway, during my pregnancy bubble of love, or through my life bubble of 'me me me'. Running around after a toddler was something that I sometimes saw other people doing, or vaguely over heard them complain about. Youth and the freedom to ignore. Those were blissful times...

So now it's my turn to do the running and I know, having a newborn is hard, but compared to a 14 month old, newborns are a breezy summer day.

People keep saying 'oh now the baby days are over and you're used to it, its so much easier!' Ummmmm, no. My energy reserves are all gone and I find I have to drink most nights just to stay sane. I never finish a conversation, or my lunch, my clothes are always smeared with snot, my blog is depleted of photos now because I don't get the chance to take them, I have barely any social life left and I'm rubbish at making 'other mummy friends'. I am constantly being whined at, my possessions are fair game, every day must be strictly planned, and every night comes with broken sleep.

I know that in a few weeks things will get better, when the tooth comes through, when she starts walking, when we get over this wave. So I can breathe before the next one starts. No wonder we have to go through labour - that's the easy bit. Every contraction is a sign of the pain and struggle that awaits us for years to come.

No photo, no time.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The working mum routine:

I work 3 days a week at a very nice architects firm, with nice people, my tasks are not exactly rocket science, I leave work at work and I'm out by at 5.30pm, my days are flexible and for an admin job it's surprisingly well paid. I am super lucky. Also I didn't even have to apply for this job, I went for an interview thinking that I didn't even want it. That's always the way. Still, working while having a baby is a seriously hard and tiring thing. Here is my current routine:

Get woken at 5.30am by Daddy's alarm (and again after he snoozes it 5 times!) I try to sleep more until either 6.45am or baby wakes up.

Get up, dressed, breakfast, pack multiple bags, baby dressed and fed, leave by 7.50am.

Drive to Granny's, arrive around 8.45 depending on traffic, leave baby with Granny or take her to nursery.

Walk to work (or Granny drives me there if I'm lucky!). Get there by 9.30.

Work/drink tea/talk to grown ups/ run personal errands during lunch break, until leaving by 5.30.

Walk to nursery/Granny's, drive home/stay at Granny's, baby dinner, playing & bedtime routine, in bed by 7.30pm, sometimes needing encouragement for a couple of hours!

Unpack stuff, get things ready for the next day, tidying/cleaning, dinner, a bit of telly, bath (wash hair, saves time not doing it in the morning!), in bed before 11pm, hoping that baby will stay asleep until we wake up and do it all again. 

On the days I don't work it's harder and easier in different ways. There's no major rush to leave the house in the morning, if baby has a nap I can too (rarely happens as I usually just do cleaning etc), baby needs quite constant attention and entertaining, feeding and cleaning. I have to make food for us both for the rest of the week, generally sort things out in the home, keep her away from baby unfriendly items, I do get to watch a bit of telly if I'm feeling like a bad lazy parent, but there's no time to myself or adult company/encouragement. I make lists and tick things off of lists. I think about how to make more money and have more fun in life, but get too distracted to put thoughts into action. I run out of ideas for going out in the winter, we go to the park, do our weekly shopping, run errands, feel lonely, despair of what little remains of my youth, beauty and freedom, feel frustrated, but feel completely in love with my baby, excited about future possibilities and lucky that my main problem in life is boredom.