Parenting archive

I became a parent in November 2009 and, as the cliché goes, my world turned upside down. PHP posts turned to pregnancy, midnight gaming turned to midnight (and 1am, and 2am, and ...) feeds. Here lies documented tales of poop, boobs, toddler tantrums and the nitty gritty that goes with being Mum.

A day of mini adventures

One of the good things about half term and end of term holidays, which the kids spend with their Dad due to him only working term time, is the fact that I get my babies for the entire weekend instead. No splitting, no half days or couple of hours here and there like before and after school in the week (in other words, normally I get all the work and bugger all time :P)

We made the most of it today by having a series of mini adventures: some intentional, some not. Firstly, we fuelled up early with a good breakfast, and then headed out into Ironbridge on a long walk. Longer perhaps than intended when we got a little bit lost in the woods.

muddle-puddles_mini

how-many-steps_mini

After that, having trekked back to the car and filled it full of mud we went to Homebase so get some drill bits and some paint, so that I might actually finish decorating my living room and can do it my way now the house belongs to me, woop woop.

After that we came home and the kids assembled the biggest train track EVER whilst I assembled Ikea furniture and put up a picture frame thingy which involved drilling into the wall. Unfortunately, just as I finished drilling into the wall the power went off and I shit myself (metaphorically) thinking I’d drilled through a cable… because you know, getting one of those cable checky gadgets is for wimps.

Having reassured myself and the kids that the failed electrics was not my fault, we had to find a way to cook the very raw chicken that was to be our tea. Electric oven? Yep. Oh dear. Decamp to Gaz’s! (Poor Gaz.)

Invasion of Gaz’s complete we then came back home and two very tired kiddies crashed out in bed. And I’m not far behind them, zzzzz!

Protected: Dear Isabel

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

The realities of being a lone parent

When I split up with Karl in May I joked to friends about the relief of no longer having to buy 5 packs of bourbon biscuits every week, not needing shares in a dairy company to buy the sheer amount of cheese he got through, etc etc. Har har, very funny. The realities of being a “lone parent” (single is clearly the wrong word in my case) extend further than that.

I’ve had to rapidly extend every frugal habit I’ve ever practised to every avenue of my life, which includes living off 4 slices of toast and a spoonful of peanut butter some nights just to make the food stretch further (and because I’m lazy).

I’ve had to actually talk to utility companies, which Karl used to do ‘for us’, and deal with the annoying levels of security each one in place. Severn Trent Water, for example, had absolutely no security in place and I was able to create and log in to an online account and change all the necessary details without any double checking on their part. PlusNet on the other hand wouldn’t speak to me or make any changes to the account, despite the username being “jemandkarl”, the payments for the Internet coming out in my name etc.

In fact, even now my Internet is still registered under Karl’s name, because when we finally managed to get through to the department we needed to speak to (after hours on hold and being passed back and forth) we were told that I couldn’t just switch the account to me without cancelling and recreating it, which would leave me without Internet for a week or more: not a workable solution for someone who requires the Internet to earn a second income.

And then there’s the monotony of the daily routine: school runs, tiredness tantrums, feeding and bathing two under 5s on my own. The constant stream of washing, cooking, tidying, reading bedtime stories and all the other mumsy shit that I have no choice but to get on with, because I can’t say “you do it tonight dear”.

No longer can I just nip out for a run because I need to clear my head, I have to schedule it around “daddy time”. No longer can I nip to the shop for evening snacks to comfort eat because I feel like crap. No longer can I go and grab some fish ‘n’ chips because I can’t be arsed to cook after a long working week.

And that reminds me? Working as a single parent. Ha. I don’t know why I bother. The second I get paid, my bank account is raided for childcare, mortgage and bills. There’s nothing like living off a single income and a series of mini life disasters to get you acquanted with your overdraft, that’s for sure. The only thing keeping me afloat at the minute is the fragments of self-employment income I bring in working a couple of evenings a week.

Of course it’s been just over 4 months now, and while that doesn’t sound like a lot written down it feels like a lifetime in terms of the scope of the changes that have happened to our lives. This lone parenting lark is bloody hard work… physically and emotionally.

Still. No regrets.

I feel like a fraud

I was reading Alice’s great post on the tiredness of a single mum yesterday and found myself nodding vigorously in agreement. Because I thought I knew tired when I had my first newborn; I thought I knew tired when we hit our first growth spurt; I thought I knew tired when I had a committed nursling on a nursing strike; I thought I knew tired when I had a second child who wouldn’t latch on lying down (preferring to scream allll night long) and no help during the nights – nobody to keep me upright and stop me falling over and crushing my baby.

I thought I knew tired.

But then I split from Karl and it was just me & two kids who’s little world had been rocked by suddenly losing a parent at night. Tired was working an 8 hour day, coming home, feeding the kids & doing another hellish bedtime, cleaning out 11 animals, working freelance til midnight, getting in to bed just in time for one or both kids to wake up and want to join me, finally drifting off at 1am and getting woken half an hour later with a foot in my crotch or an elbow in my face, being woken at 5:30 because it was light out and not being able to get me or the kids back to sleep. Tired is doing this night after night after night. Tired is doing all that and still having to clean the house, cook the meals, buy the groceries, pay the bills, etc.

And I get sympathy, and reassurance from other single mums, and they tell me it’ll get better. And it has… it has because I’ve knocked back my working in the evenings, starting going to bed earlier when I can, the kids are sleeping better (sometimes) and they even manage to stay in their own beds til 5:30 some nights.

But I feel like I don’t deserve the sympathy, and the reassurance. I know that there are mums out there doing this with their child(ren) night after night and they don’t have the luxury of an ex-partner who takes the kids away for a couple of nights a week. I know of mums with multiple children and no support, and no work to escape to in the day for a break or grandparents to drop the kids off with when things get really bad. I know of mums who go days between seeing another adult, who strike the postie up in conversation because they’re the only person likely to visit that day.

I have support, I have nights off, I have friends and family who’ve got my back. I have a supportive boss who can give me flexible time if I need it, who doesn’t blink when I am 10 minutes late to work because it took an hour to get one of my kids dressed and into nursery. I even have, by some miracle, found someone who accepts that I have to do all of this, that I have 2 children, that I have issues and ‘history’ and an emotional rollercoaster to ride while I mentally process the end of a lengthy relationship… and yet who still wants to be with me in what little free time I have anyway :)

So yeah, I might be a ‘single mum’ in the loosest definition of the word — that is, I’m raising 2 children in a single parent household — but I don’t feel like I deserve the nod of recognition & sympathy in aisles of Tesco, the ‘follow’ on twitter from a fellow single mum, the virtual pat on the back from a friend on Facebook messenger for doing another shitty bedtime. I don’t feel like a “single mum”, I just feel like a fraud.

A little proud

I don’t like gender stereotypes and have done virtually everything in my power to ensure that both of my children have access to toys and clothes based on their preferences rather than what society defines as “normal” toys for a boy & girl. I encourage both of my children to be empathetic as well as adventurous and active. However, despite this, Isabel has been massively corrupted by her preschool peers: my daughter is obsessed by everything pink and princess-y. She regularly labels things “for boys” or “for girls” & if something is broken, it’s always a given that daddy would have to fix it for her.

(I get through this by repeating “it’s her choice to like pink” frequently. Twitch twitch.)

However, this morning I felt like I had achieved a teensy goal when, in driving past the River Severn as we do every morning, she commented that if someone fell in the river the firemen and fireladies would come and pull them out.

Fuck yes, equality for women :)

Cloth nappies: Poppers vs. Velcro (Applix)

nappies on washing line

I haven’t had the time (or money) to obsess about cloth nappies recently — they go on Oliver’s butt and then they go in the wash … nothing new or exciting there — and I’m hoping that Oliver will want to start using the potty/toilet full time come summer (we’ve had occasional potty use but it waxes and wanes with his mood and mine) BUT as our workhorse stash gets older, I’m starting to really notice the difference between various brands and fixings and thought I’d share my thoughts.

So here we go:

Velcro (also known as applix) nappies

Pros

  1. Offer the most flexibility in fit (ideal for smaller babies)
  2. Easiest to put on a wriggly baby
  3. Can roll the used nappy up and velcro it tab to tab to keep contents secure when out and about

Cons

  1. Velcro tabs curl with age so come undone easily
  2. Velcro can collect crap (literally!) in the ‘hook’ parts of the tabs
  3. Velcro nappies always come out of the wash in one giant stuck-together ball
  4. The top of the velcro tabs are quite hard, and can rub the belly causing sore red marks
  5. Start to look old after just a few washes

Popper (also known as snaps) nappies

Pros

  1. Harder for older babies/toddlers to undo
  2. Can be pre-fixed so the nappy slides on/off like a pull up (velcro comes undone)
  3. Nursery (day care) staff seem to do a better job with poppers (although don’t get me started on nappies and nursery!)
  4. No bundling in the wash
  5. No poop getting stuck in the fastenings

Cons

  1. Can be hard/fiddly to do up (Especially with wrigglers)
  2. I’ve had some poppers pull completely free of the material, ruining the nappy (bumgenius)


My overall preference is for poppers. Despite the fact that written down there aren’t many more “pros” to poppers, the cons to velcro make them a bigger pain in the butt (not literally…) I bought a popper application tool to convert my velcro bumgenius to poppers but it’s too fiddly so I haven’t bothered yet!

Disclaimer

It’s worth noting that my opinions are off the back of using the following brands of nappies (in order of most used / amount in our stash) – and I’m not counting newborn nappies which are virtually all velcro:

  • BumGenius
  • Baba + Boo
  • Tots Bots easyfit
  • Fuzzybunz
  • Lenny Lamb

I highly recommend Fill Your Pants & Baba + Boo for buying nappies :)

Bedhopping

We recently purchased a 2nd hand IKEA Kura bed & bed tent for Izzy with the grand plan that we’d eventually turn it over and then convert it into a bunk bed a la this popular IKEA hack so that Oliver can sleep underneath.

In the mean time, while we get over our fear of having Izz up in the air and falling out of bed, she’s on the bottom and Oliver is in Isabel’s old junior bed (also from IKEA… there’s a theme developing here). Because of the new bed in the kid’s room we’ve had to take the spare double out, which is now back in our room and the crappy cheap super king has been dismantled ready for burning donating to a furniture charity or something.

Anyway, so now we’ve all swapped and changed beds, including Oliver’s change from a cot to a bed, I was expecting bedtime tyranny and much up-and-down while the kids settled into the “new”ness… and nothing. Not a squeak. Admittedly I’ve never experienced this “milestone” before as Izz never went in the cot, but I was under the impression that this step is one to be dreaded!

I guess jumping from one bed to another all night long while they make up their mind who they want to sleep next to (usually me) means they’re already accustomed to changing beds :p

The ‘W’ word

Weaning that is. Oliver has stopped feeding.

I’m not sure when exactly he stopped – he’s been reducing his feeds for months. He’d feed a couple of times in one day, then nothing for a day, then a feed, then another skipped day. More gradual than Izzy from what I remember, but earlier than I’d originally planned/expected. He asked for a feed roughly 2 weeks ago, but gagged on the breast and then dropped down laughing and shouting “no”, so has probably lost his latch (Isabel did v. quickly too.) I thought there’d be a resurgence in requests after last week’s first full week at nursery but he rejected my offers.

As I predicted, I’ve not had the 2 weeks of mourning like I did with Isabel (and is quite common in nursing mums) although I’ve still got milk, so not sure if that will come later…

Another ‘end of an era’, anyway.

Death

I’m trying to crack on with some work but one of my servers is 503ing, which – as you can probably imagine – is not particularly conducive to “cracking on”, so as an interim measure I’ve just read Alison’s latest post Trying to be as strong as I want my children to be, which surfaced some thoughts that have been bubbling away lately…

Isabel has recently started asking questions about death, and showing an interest in the subject. We actually had a brush with the topic several months ago but a brief explanation seemed to satisfy any need for knowledge at the time. I had hoped this would be it for the foreseeable future but apparently not; like Alison’s son, she too said this week she doesn’t want to die. (Responding to that with “everybody dies eventually” was, in hindsight, probably not the smartest thing to say, but we live and we learn.)

I do not fear death and I’m not worried about Isabel learning about death and dying. It has to happen eventually, and given the state of Big Pig’s health it might be sooner rather than later, although I cling to the hope that she doesn’t experience it directly for as long as possible.

I am worried about how I ever broach the subject of people who choose the path that leads to death. I’m worried about how I tell Izzy there’s a special guy who’ll she’ll never get to meet because of a decision he made 14 years ago. How do you tell a little girl that someone who should be a huge part of their life, decided that they would rather die than deal with the consequences of their choices in life?

I can’t help but feel like I’m hiding a lie by not telling Izzy that she had an uncle she’ll never get to meet, but I’m not sure I am ready to tell her yet either. Mostly because I know she’ll ask “why”, and I still don’t have the answer to that question.

Goodbye 2013! Goodbye CMPI!

We made a rather interesting discovery on Christmas Day. It wasn’t intentional; Oliver helped himself to some of Isabel’s chocolate buttons – mouth stuffed so full that chocolatey dribble was oozing out of the corners – and we figured in for a penny, in for a pound and put proper butter and cream in the mashed potatoes at dinner too. (That was the highlight of my day, just so you know.)

That night he DIDN’T wake every 20 minutes screaming, like he did prior to us going dairy free 9+ months ago and he DIDN’T spend all night thrashing about with stomach pain.

Just to be sure, we let him eat dairy products on Boxing Day too. And the day after, and the day after. This week he’s had cheese, yoghurt, and milk on his cereal with not so much as a burp of malcontent from the CMPI. I feel I need to touch wood (and hug a Baileys) as I write this but I think the CMPI might have buggered off.

I’ll be celebrating with cheesecake and ice cream, fyi.

You know you’re normally a co-sleeper when…

  • Your child sleeps longer than normal in their own bed and you wake every hour anyway because you’re not used to them being away from you.
  • You wake every time your little absent cosleeper murmers because you’re not used to hearing his sleep sounds over the monitor.
  • You sleep on the edge of the bed, despite having an entire super king-size to yourself, because you’re used to being kicked if you sleep anywhere else
  • When your little cosleeper finally calls for you, you’re grateful for the company, because the bed is a little colder and lonelier without him.

Having it all? What a load of boll….

Off the back of Beth’s eloquent piece on being “wonder woman” I can’t help but summarise my opinion on the phrase “having it all”: it’s a load of — and look away now if you’re of sensitive disposition — complete and total bollocks.

“Having it all” is just another stick invented by the media to beat up women who don’t meet bullshit fantasy ideals which only serve to drive women crazy in their misguided pursuit of happiness.

I confess, before I actually became a work at home parent I thought that it would be the yellow brick road, the wardrobe opening into Narnia: I honestly thought that I could sit at my laptop tapping out a few great websites for clients (that’s what I do, see) while the children played gaily at my feet. The washing would be done, dried and folded; the kitchen work surfaces sparkling as I’d have not long scrubbed pausing only to sip on my hot coffee in a clean mug. My food would be prepped for our evening meal and we’d all be happy and rich as I rolled in the money I would make as a successful freelancer.

snotty baby
Not my child. Model shown for demonstration purposes only.

Hahahaha what a prat I was.

The reality is a little more like yesterday: I was sat at my desk, covered in bogies because my youngest is ill, bouncing him on my lap to keep the noise level down whilst I try to give a training meeting to a client over skype; my headset whistles because dearest child is trying to eat the microphone, again leaning forward to wipe his teary, green-crust-covered face across my chest and I pause to listen to the questions over the sound of a hacking cough and wimpering (child’s, not mine).

I can’t stop working to nurse my child back to health because I’m on my second month of being overdrawn thanks to scrooge-like clients holding on to their cash for as long as possible. My long forgotten coffee on the manky crumb-covered kitchen side is long cold and will sit there until the following morning when I replace it with another (which will also likely go the same way) in the same grotty mug because pausing to wash it is too much effort.

And if you think that’s an exaggeration for comic effect, you’re obviously not a work at home parent.

Don’t get me wrong, I have really enjoyed the challenges of working from home over the past 18 months. On the months where I have made more money than I did as an employee I have rejoiced in the successes… but it’s not like this every day. It’s stressful, and hard, and I am not wonder woman. Like I said: having it all? What a load of bollocks.

Many thanks to the lovely Eeh Bah Mum for letting me use her gorgeous snotty child to illustrate my slightly ranty post.