Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Argument

I've just had a row with The Husband. It's the same argument we've had for the past six years and is linked to either a full moon, lack of sleep, my period or his need to have special love. The script never changes - he makes a comment (usually about the way I deal with the children), I go MENTAL over his audacity and there in follows an exchange of angry words and cutting remarks based around the subject of "My Life Is Crapper Than Yours".
Which got me thinking. And it was quite funny because I had totally forgotten what the argument was about and I just wanted to run off and write my blog. But I couldn't go anywhere until we had had The Making Up, involving a cuddle which The Husband sees as an opportunity to get frisky.
Anyway, here I am at last with my thoughts.
The Husband's life is VERY IMPORTANT and he must have a laptop&mobile phone with him always. He says "The big cheese has left some people out in the cold because they don't keep their eye on the ball, but that's the way the cookie crumbles". I'm not sure what he is talking about. I have no idea what he does for a living.
My life, in comparison, seems VERY SMALL. Some days I have to do washing and some days I have to buy Sudocrem. However during the aforementioned argument I had an epiphany which goes something like this: Our jobs are EXACTLY THE SAME (but my life is still the crappiest). For example,
NEGOTIATION: The Husband does a lot of this and from what I can gather is very good at it. I am not so good at it but he should try negotiating with The Tomboy who will only wear football kits, he should attempt to negotiate with The Eldest One who says it's his worstest day ever even though he has been at three parties, played football, ate sweets and been bought Match Attax. And I bet the Husband wouldn't be so clever when negotiating with The Toddler who is determined to microwave Coke cans and poke sticks in my eye.
TIME MANAGEMENT: Well The Husband isn't very good at this but he is excellent at covering up his Time Management mistakes. He invents the weirdest and most wonderful excuses for being late to meetings that he gets everyone else apologising for being on time. I win hands down in this category. I always get to school before the bell goes without forgetting a child or a packed lunch. I am in Starbucks at the precise time I'm craving coffee. I am mostly on time for New Look when I need some retail therapy. I arrive promptly for any playground gossip. The children are always in time for bed and I almost never ever miss an episode of Desperate Housewives.
MEETINGS AND POWER LUNCHING: The Husband never has a meeting less than three hours long which of course he has to chair and always ensures he uses the words "Sustainable", "Due Diligence" and "Creative Destruction". Oh how The Husband does love a good power lunch. The more expensive the better. And he always ensures he picks up the bill. However The Husband has never experienced a meeting/power lunch like two adults and three toddlers in Pizza Express at a busy lunch time where the food is taking over an hour and they've run out of kiddie packs. I can use the words "Creative Destruction" in a much more appropriate sentence.
PRIORITISING: Does The Husband work on this years budget, the client proposal or his presentation to the board? Do I wash up or boil the kettle or read Grazia?
STRESS: So okay, I understand that a commute into London plus a team of 14 (directly) and 100 (indirectly) people under his great guidance plus managing a business worth 35million plus coming home to three crazy kids & a complaining wife DOES constitute a certain amount of stress. The Husband, however, can still pop out to buy a sandwich or read a paper on the train, indeed exercise some freewill. I, on the other hand, have to plan and implement an entire Military Operation when buying milk or getting petrol or having a wee.
COMMUNICATION: The Husband must be utterly contactable at all times. If he is not in communication due to lack of signal there is a high chance of natural disaster. If his battery has ran out then there is likely to be a world-wide Flash Forward incident. This is pretty much the same for me. Texting, Phoning, Hotmail and Facebook are essential vitamins&minerals to my daily diet. Talking with my children does not come under such banner. I don't know about his conversations at work but a typical home communication is ME: "I'm going out on Monday". HIM: "I'm away with work". ME: "When were you going to tell me?". HIM: "I'm telling you now".
GOSSIPING: On the rare occasion that The Husband brings home some office gossip, it's usually very good, as long as he doesn't digress into telling me about his workload. My playground gossip regarding who was wearing what and who doesn't like who pales in comparison.
So I reckon the scores are The Husband 3, Me 5.
I declare myself World Champion Crap Life Holder (well, for today anyway).

Sometimes Yummy, Mainly Slummy

In the Court of Mothers, I just want to say a few words as the defense counsel for the type of Mummy I am (ha you can tell I've been watching The Good Wife).
There's sooooo much stuff around these days which tells you how to nurture your kids - don't get me started on the Ginas, the Supernannys, the Dog Whisperers (I know that's for dogs but often gets positive results from my children). How can one mother possible ensure her three children get their 5-a-day, half hour of exercise, water to aid concentration, clean fingernails and enough sleep to ensure maximum performance???? As well as cleaning house, cooking meals, loading & unloading washing machine, loading & unloading tumble dryer, packed lunches, organising school uniform, watching Jeremy Kyle, helping with homework, taking an interest in their day, texting, washing up, avoiding special love, buying milk etc etc. Oh if only Mr Dyson would invent a Mummy domestic appliance. I would LOVE to hear from Mummys who do all the above and still have time (and the desire) for adult conversation.
As my friend put it the other day "If the job for Mummy was advertised, I would never have applied". I might have applied but I would never have got through the interview. And even if I'd got the job, my colleagues would all be doing a damn sight better than me.
Don't take me too seriously, my children do make me happy but it's when I am on my own, with sole charge of the remote and feeling, well, like ME that I am the happiest. Yes I can be selfish - if I wasn't I don't think I could ever get ME back again, but I do love my children.
I tried it once - being a Great Mum. It was a couple of months after I had The Toddler. I did loads of home cooking, even changed the bedding regularly, played games and never raised my voice. I was actually pretty fun to be around (not as fun as The Husband though, who always manages to bounce in at 7pm declaring a game of Rocket Ships, no matter that I've spent the past hour trying to calm down the kids). However nobody noticed or even cared and The Husband thought I was having a breakdown.
In my closing argument, I quote the wise words of Outnumbered (GENIUS television show). My efforts and intentions are down to "Well meaning parental incompetence while attempting to raise kids with the minimum of emotional damage to all concerned."

The Sport Of Parenting

I have come to realise there are three types of parents where competitiveness is concerned 1) The parents who are openly competitive 2) The parents who are secretly competitive 3) The parents who aren't competitive. I would put myself in Category 3 (well, sometimes).
1) The Parents Who Are Openly Competitive
I must give kudos to the Competitive Parents (CPs) as they have an unconditional belief in their Perfect Children's abilities plus an infinite amount of No Shame. Parenting, for them, has become the most competitive adult sport. Parents that engage in the sport of Competitive Child Rearing (coming soon to Playstation 3), often get great results from their Perfect Children. Maybe this is where I am going wrong. I understand that we live in a culture which constantly tells us to get the best for our children, but Swahili lessons at age 5? Come on. Once upon a time in a land far far away, children were allowed to be children and it wasn't about the best nursery, the top schools and the excellent exam results.
It starts from birth. Competitive Parents go out of their way to let their friends know how little pain relief the mother needed and how amazing their newborn sleeps. Then comes the feeding - all breast and organic cooking only. Pushchairs are a major showing-off area with parents paying hundreds to push the most fashionable model and create as much pram-envy as possible. Then come the improve-your-baby classes: Sign Language, Music, Yoga - all before baby is one. At school age the extra-curricular classes include underwater swimming and public speaking. A major area of one upmanship is not owning a television. The ultimate aim of the Competitive Parent is to have rival parents know exactly what they are up to, only then have they satisfactorily achieved their goal.
2) The Parents Who Are Secretly Competitive
Secretly Competitive Parents (SCPs) are definitely the worst kind. If you are non-competitive, they lure you into a friendship based on your shared non-competitiveness. At first you think how nice it is to have a friend who doesn't make you feel crap about your kids. That's their aim, they reel you in and just at the point when you are talking about how you've fed your kids fish fingers five nights in a row, they STRIKE. You think you have misheard them and you let it pass, but you see them a few days later and they strike again. It starts off subtle, a comment here, a funny look there but little by little they have got you feeling so goddamn AWFUL that your kids will never be as good as theirs.
Secretly Competitive Parents are very very clever. It's not the obvious things that SCPs are competitive about. There are the ones who go all out for book day fancy dress (hmmmm that would be me then). Those who throw the biggest and best birthday parties and the ones who say their child eats everything (ooops me again). They also excel at turning achievements into negatives so to get away with it "Oh I felt so bad having a go at her about her spellings but then she won The Headteacher's Award".
The terrible fact about SCPs is that the one time you accidentally mention that your child has won something, they say "Oh you're not turning into one of THOSE parents are you?"
3) The Parents Who Aren't Competitive
When I first had The Eldest One I admit I was competitive for about eight months at which point he had a Health Visitor Check and I realised that I didn't have a child genius. This was reinforced when he reached two years and I looked at his old baby photos and couldn't understand why I had thought he was the most beautiful babe when clearly he was a MOONHEAD. From these moments on I understood that it was pointless trying to compete as my kids were shaping up to be pretty average. I found the minute I judged another child's behaviour, my children would infinitely do something worse.
Now take me and The Husband. We are pretty cool, right? We've been to Glastonbury, I wear Uggs and we know a couple of N-Dubz tracks. So how come we have possibly the uncoolest kids on the planet? They don't even look cool so we can't pretend they are cool when they are so obviously not. There ought to be a support group for all us Non Competitive Parents: "Hello my name is Claire, I'm a slack mum and I have rubbish kids".
I know that my non-competitiveness is also about the security I have in the Parent-Me. Although I'm not that secure when a teacher pulls me up about The Tomboy's behaviour or when The Grandma questions why The Toddler wasn't walking at twelve months by asking "Do you think he is disabled?"
I don't want to be mother to The Perfect Child (well, some days...), I much prefer spirited kids anyway. Spirited being a great word to use for a child that will never be The Perfect Child, no matter how competitive you are.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Body

So it occurs to me at 8.05 this morning that my body hasn't belonged to me for precisely seven and a half years. Which is the time I got pregnant with The Eldest One and I thought that being pregnant gave me the right to eat unlimited amounts of Haribo without putting on any weight. An 8lb baby later and I realised that my stomach wasn't all baby and water and placenta but infact one giant gummy bear which had taken nine months and 785 packets of Haribo to mutate.
It was also the hottest summer EVER and heat plus breast-feeding plus emergency C-section wound do not a sexy lady create. And I challenge any of you who have ever breast feed not to mention the words breast, boobs, nipples or nipple pads for at least an hour.
The Husband did not help much either with my body taking on a life of its own. I must admit that it was pretty sweet of him to assist me with the breast pump when I looked&smelt like an out-of-date pint of milk, except he somehow managed to put it on the wrong way and completely ANNIHILATED my nipple. And approx four weeks after giving birth, bearing in mind the C-section plus the allergic reaction to the surgical dressing plus the leaking breasts plus the lack of shampoo, The Husband DARES and I really mean DARES to suggest a rendez-vous in the bedroom. He had no idea that my IN door had now become an OUT door to which access was well and truly restricted.
Another two pregnancies later I have managed to get down to a satisfactory weight by eating cigarettes and drinking only bath water but in the process, my body not only belongs to three children but has become like an 80yr old lady's. You do not, repeat, DO NOT want to see me naked. There is only one pose that I can do where my body looks pretty good but if I steer slightly away from this position it turns into a monstrosity.
And over the past 16 months I seem to have grown an extra limb which appears on various parts of me throughout the day. The growth seems strangely cuddly at times, even mutters the odd word and occasionally goes into a cot. I'm getting a bit fond of it except when it appears at 4 o'clock in the morning.
I can't even explain how I feel about my body now it no longer belongs to me. I guess it's like an old friend that you think fondly of but have no desire to put any effort in to. All I can say is that at the end of the day when 3 children have battered it, used it as a servant, stuck to it and ordered it about, it likes to curl up with a Jack Daniels, not communicate or be touched. The Husband must take note.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Toddler

All I can say is that I must have done something pretty bad in a previous life to deserve The Toddler in this life.
Any mother who has ever had an active 16 month old and some form of a life is either a) superwoman b) married to superman c) lying
I should have clocked the warning signs from the minute I was wheeled up to the ward after giving birth. At a few hours old he had no intention of sleeping and every intention of staying on my nipple and crying, giving no rest whatsoever.
I get no SPACE or ME TIME!!!!!!!
When you have a Toddler you also lose all capacity to have a grown up conversation. I can't have an opinion on the war in afganistan however I can sure tell you what offers are on nappys this week in a half conversation sort of way.
And then there was the time when I needed a poo right in the middle of feeding him. He hadn't fed in a while and I felt guilty, so what did I do? He came with me, you can picture it. And since then every time I go to the loo The Toddler comes too. He is currently going through his 'toilet phase' too so most times when I am weeing, he has his hand stuck under the seat.
All the things I have taken for granted such as cleaning teeth, making dinner, going on my email have turned into a military operation. Juice? check. Snack? check. Clean nappy? check. And still the minute my mind goes onto something other than him, The Toddler makes sure he is on top of the telly or falling down the stairs.
I'm desperately trying to get him into watching telly - I've tried everything from kids shows to Relocation Relocation to Jeremy Kyle. He is having none of it.
My favourite part of the day is when The Toddler goes to sleep at night. It makes coping with the other two something I can finally deal with.
There is part of me which feels sorry for The Toddler. He doesn't have record of him reaching any milestones and there are no photos of him older than three months. If he was kidnapped I couldn't provide the police with any pictures to identify him. However there is a much larger part of me that feels sorry for me and that will surely not change until he is eighteen.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

High Maintenance

My eldest boy is also my eldest child and also my most high maintenance kid. Well, The Toddler is high maintenance in that he wants everything he can reach and everything he can't reach as long as it's not a TOY. And The Tomboy is probably the worst because I think she is low maintenance when in fact she is high maintenance in that she wants to be called Ben and wear army clothes and football boots at all costs. But The Eldest One who is also known as The Sensitive One is the child that will ask me the same question again and again until his six year old brain has processed the answer I am giving him into something that will cause him NO WORRY WHATSOEVER.
For example, every night I get the question as I put him to bed "What are you doing now, Mummy?" and I answer "Dinner, telly, bed" and he will respond "So you're doing dinner, telly, bed?" and I answer "Yes dinner, telly, bed" and he will say "Dinner, telly, bed?" and I answer "Dinner, telly, bed". This will continue for about ten minutes which is usually the time it takes to settle it into his brain worry-free and which is usually the time it takes for me to slip up and add something like "Dinner, drink, telly, bed" which will utterly worry him and the whole process will have to start over again.
In the summer holidays last year I almost caused him to have a nervous breakdown. We had planned to go to the cinema which I had repeatedly told him that morning but by the time we got there the movie was sold we went across to Pizza Hut which was we popped into bowling but they had no which time I had made far too many changes to THE PLAN that he just couldn't cope.
So I'm trying to change things by not telling him anything until about two seconds before we do it. This way I can get through the day without having to repeat myself and really talk to him, and he won't get worried that Mummy won't stick to The Plan.

The Art of Ignoring

Having a blog is a good excuse to ignore my kids even more. Sending text messages is a great tool to ignore them as well as when I absolutely utterly have to update my blog. I was in the garden the other day and The Toddler fell over and hurt his head but I was in the middle of sending a super important text message about 'yes I can go to the curry night' that I had to ignore him until I'd finished. SUCH an annoyance that he'd chosen that very moment to fall over. He never decides to climb on the bench and fall off it when I am in the mood for being a GOOD MUM.
I'm also getting very good at ignoring those shouts of "Mummy I need you" and "Mummy I'm hungry/thirsty" which always come five minutes after they've had dinner.
And I've got the art of "I'm just putting the buggy in the car" totally in the bag when I'm sneaking out for a crafty ciggie.
But the Ignoring that I am absolutely BRILLIANT at is when the kids wake up in the night. The Husband is like "oh The Toddler woke up and The Tomboy needed a wee" and I'm like "Really? I must have been sooooo exhausted from entertaining them today".
And it's not just the kids that I ignore. It's all forms of arts&crafts, swing pushing, playing hide&seek and definitely baking.
I'm thinking about writing to the Olympic 2012 committee to see if they'll introduce a new sport called IGNORING. Well if synchronised swimming is considered an event then I reckon I'm in with a chance, Ignoring takes much more skill.

The Reluctant Parent


Bit at a loss today because I've got no 'very important life changing' jobs to do like BUY WASHING POWDER and EMPTY TUMBLE DRYER. Instead I am POTTERING which is practically impossible to do when you've got a toddler. Pottering with a toddler involves opening doors/shutting doors, finding his comforter, ignoring hissy fits, saying "A car" or "A plane" and dreading 3pm when the other two little darlings will need picking up.
Yes I'm in one of those RELUCTANT PARENT moods where I am thinking about the past ME and the past LIFE (yes I used to have one of those)...I am a mere shadow of my former self. Did anybody used to know that Claire Smith? She was really good fun. She used to have spontaneity and fun and chillout and sex. If ever she makes an appearance then please do everything in your power to keep her around.
I used to dream about growing up and having children, now I dream about getting a full nights sleep and reading the Sunday papers in bed and having SPACE. Where did it all go wrong????