Monthly Archives: January 2011

Up You Go Mum

Blue Monday is a load of rubbish invented solely for the purpose of PR.  That’s what I thought this morning, when I kept getting emails about it.

After that, I realised my mobile phone had been cut off because the bill must have bounced, but it’s two weeks until I get paid. I knew I shouldn’t have gone out on Saturday night, but Tom was at his Auntie J’s and I’d barely left the house since Christmas.

I do get fed up of paying for everything.

Oh well, I thought, there’s food in the cupboards, I’ll have a shower and watch the Giving Birth Programme.

I really need to learn not to watch the Giving Birth Programme. I should have especially known not to watch it on Blue Monday. I did though and I saw the Most Beautiful Girl in the World look serene –  alluring, even –  as she had a graceful water birth in her bikini and only screamed once.

When I was in the shower, I got three text messages, one email and one Facebook comment asking me if I was watching BBC One. I wasn’t, because I was in the shower. I asked around and found out that the thing I had missed that everyone thought I should watch was the Britain’s Missing Dads Programme. I should have stepped away, but I knew it was there so I was always going to look. I actively sought it out on iPlayer.

Bloody blue Monday.

Far worse things happen in the world though.

I took the advice of the hapless 22-year-old boyfriend of The Most Beautiful Girl in the World. He hadn’t been keen on the idea of the baby and said something about trying to see the positives of a situation because otherwise it will knock you down. And the reason why the Giving Birth Programme and the Deadbeat Dads Programme made me feel sad is the positive in this situation. The one who made me really proud with his outstanding ability to be able to read the words “up”, “you” and “go” at bedtime. The one who bumped out of bed and went to the loo while I was writing this, allowing me to go and tuck him back in and say goodnight in for the second time tonight.

So I’ll shut up now and write some of the book before I go up to bed, because really, that’s what the whole thing’s about.

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Buggies Huggies Hubbies

I’ve probably always avoided making friends with other mothers. Why should the fact you have both given birth mean that you have anything else in common with a woman? At all?

Maybe it’s the drugs in the hospital, but some women seem to come out having forgotten who they were before. They enter a world of controlled crying, teething remedies, pram models, Next, sleeping patterns, buggies, Huggies, hubbies, sore tit discussion, centiles, colic, arguments about weaning and trying for the next one.

I’ve been wary of other mothers since my attempts at baby groups when Tom was tiny. (Comparing teething salts to Class A drugs in the middle of Baby Massage and expecting to get a laugh was a bit naive.) At school, I’m stealthy, keeping my head down and darting in and out. This is partially due to the fact I work up until the minute Tom needs collecting. I don’t have time to chat in the playground for an hour before the bell goes. When he’s in after school club, I never see other Mums, because we all arrive in drips.

I hadn’t tried to make friends with other mothers, because it didn’t feel like we were stopping here. I always thought we’d move to the posh end of town,  but recently I realised we will never afford to. The rent I pay on our good house with all its space would get me a one bedroomed flat in the posh end of town. If our terraced house was in the posh end of town, it would have ivy on the front, be marketed as a ‘cottage’ and cost twice as much. It really isn’t that bad here, it’s been home for three years. Tom is at a good school now. Even if I could afford to move to the posh end of town, I’d be jeopardising that.

I decided to make an effort at Tom’s swimming lessons. One of the mums had a baby with her. He was beautiful.

“I like your baby,” He smiled at me and reminded me how small Tom used to be.

“Is he your only one?” said the Mum, nodding at Tom splashing around in the pool.

“Yeah.”

“Oooh go on, get your other half told, just have another one!” she laughed.

And I felt really pissed off with the poor woman. Even though it was perfectly reasonable of her to presume there was an other half and that I could ‘just have another one,’ I felt really irrationally annoyed with her.

The following week, I decided to swim in the deep end of the pool while Tom was having his lesson. In the changing rooms, another mother said, “It’s hardly worth you jumping in there for 20 minutes and only having half the pool to swim in, is it? Why don’t you come to lane swimming in the morning when he’s at school?”

“Because I am at work.”

“Oh yes.. that’s difficult I suppose.”

Yes.

Us working mothers always miss each other, because we are always darting around in opposite directions. I want to meet another mum who understands what it is like to be the breadwinner, who knows how hard it is trying to do well at a career whilst raising a child, another Mum who doesn’t have a “hubby” to moan to after a really crap day. (Or a mother who is married but would never, ever use the word “hubby.”) A Mum with whom I can sit down and chat while our children play together.  A mum who thinks indoor soft play areas on industrial estates are the most hellish, depressing places on earth. A mum who only washes up when people are coming round and who doesn’t know how to use an iron. I don’t know if she’s out there though, or if our paths will ever cross, so I need to stop staring at the vowel snake and the hopscotch on the playground. I need to look up and smile.

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Rebel

Two felt tip tattoos, one on each forearm, spreading down to the hands and the fingers in red and green. One a rat, one an “Indian pattern.” (No idea where that came from, but not India.) I’ve scrubbed and scrubbed at them and they won’t budge, like a stubborn club stamp on a Sunday night.

“We really need to try and get rid of the tattoos,” I said, “I’m not sending you to school looking like that.”

“I’ve got an idea.”

“Go on…”

“Just don’t send me to school.”

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White Christmas, White Lies, White Ribbons

When you wish upon a chocolate mousse star (not an ad for the ice cream.)

I’m never a stickler for tradition and I certainly don’t believe a virgin got pregnant (although stranger things have happened.) I do remember how magical Christmas felt as a child though and the snow made this year particularly special. I couldn’t wait to pretend Santa was coming. Weather and other elements conspired against getting to Mum’s. She lays on a great Christmas, but I wanted to have a go at Father Christmas visiting our house and leaving presents under our (small, wonky) tree. We are, after all, a family (in our own small, wonky way.)

“We haven’t got a fireplace,” said Tom, “How will Father Christmas get in?”

“There’s one in my bedroom”

“But your bedroom’s a mess.”

“I’ll make a path through the clothes for him to get through.” (White lie.)

I have never cooked a turkey in my life and I’m a vegetarian.

“What do you fancy for Christmas dinner?”

“Beans on toast with a little bit of cheese.”

“No, it’s Christmas, you can have anything you want, what’s your favourite meal of all?”

“Beans on toast with a little bit of cheese.”

That caused some controversy amongst family and friends, who believed I should make Tom a proper meal. So, I hauled him and the Pensioner’s Shopping Trolley through the snow to the supermarket and spent far too much on veg, fake meat, a Christmas cactus, fancy snacks and a couple of bottles of red.

We had a lovely Christmas Eve with good friends. One of them carried Tom home on his shoulders extra late at night as we looked out for Father Christmas in the cold sky. Inside, we left out a mince pie and a carrot, some water and  glass of red wine. (Good job I went to the supermarket.) There was also reindeer food, which looked like a mixture of porridge oats and red glitter and required hoovering up.

The following morning, Tom opened his Scooby Doo Pirate Castle and other presents.  We lazed around most of the day, sharing popcorn and watching the telly, playing his new Guess Who (did you know that it now comes with pets as well as people?) and eventually got round to the big dinner in the evening. I laid out the table with the Christmas cactus and the leftover golden star glitter from the last wedding we went to. As I served up the food, Tom disappeared upstairs.

“I’ve got us some napkins!” he announced when he came back down.

I walked over to the table and saw him neatly rolling up strips of toilet roll and putting them in front of both our plates. Things really aren’t that bad.

Of course, he ate hardly any of his dinner, moaning the whole way through that he wanted beans on toast with a little bit of cheese. “Or how about we just have a bowl of popcorn then a yogurt for pudding?”

Pudding was better than yogurt though, a posh chocolate mousse with stars on top.

“If I make a wish, then eat one of those stars, will it come true?” Tom asked.

“It depends what it is.”

“Well I’ll try.”

I’ve mentioned Handsome here before. He’s Tom’s “invisible dog”. He’s white with grey patches and wears a red cape. He lives in a winged kennel and seems to be a bit of a canine superhero. His name is ridiculous, but endearing.

Tom closed his eyes tight and popped the star in his mouth. “I wish Handsome would become real,” he whispered.

Jesus.

“Will it come true Mum?”

“I didn’t hear it,” I white-lied.

“If you didn’t hear it, that means it will definitely come true.”

We are not getting a dog. I’ll get my book written, then maybe I’ll find another way to bring Handsome to life.

I’m making a small donation to the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and will be writing more about their work in 2011: Although maternity services in the UK are under enormous pressure at the moment, they are still far richer than those in developing countries, where a woman dies through pregnancy or childbirth almost every minute of every day.

*I should have written this ages ago and today should be a New Year post. Happy New Year to everyone who reads this. Thanks for reading, have a wonderful 2011.

Just visible - the bog roll napkin (yes, it's white.)

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