Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Lesson 23: Potty Training is Rank

I've always been bored to tears by status updates and progress reports from potty training parents. 
"George has gone four hours without a nappy!" 
"Eva has just asked to do a big poo in her potty!"
And too much information, thanks all the same,

Well, today is Day 4 of no nappy for The Toddler and I sort of get the proudness. I'll admit it, the highlight of my work day yesterday was receiving a text from said toddler's Granny to inform me he had successfully sat and shat on his potty. I was elated. High fives all round for the toilet training team of coaches. 

So far so good, bar a few accidents as rightly expected.

However, I feel it is necessary to point out the reality of this proud milestone journey:

Potty training is, to all intents and purposes, really quite rank. Sure wees are all good. Wee accidents resulting in soaking shorts and shoe puddles are part of the package. No dramas. 

But nothing prepared me for the day I would be faced with a fully formed human turd in a plastic pot. 

Granted that is where it is meant to go. A poo in the potty - fantastic! 

But Jesus Christ. HOLY MOTHER OF GOD.
The smell. The sight. The sound

Never before have I displayed an external reaction so at odds with every bone and sense in my body. "Such a clever boy! Well done my darling!" I beamed, whilst physically urging on my way to drop this longed for potty deposit down the toilet (cue more urging, an immediate requirement for a toilet brush/bleach and having to open every downstairs window). Then you have to run after a small person who is charging around without having yet been wiped. Use your own imagination for the challenges this brings. Mainly to previously un(skid)marked furniture.

4 days in and I am coping better. I have been told I would have been better encouraging a transition straight from nappy to child's toilet seat (duly noted for Baby Two's turn), but having already encouraged the fateful potty I feel I am committed to seeing it through. At least until he is more confident.

So my wonderful and bright boy is doing exactly what has been asked of him and I am proud. Truly I am. I am just also starting to realise that nappies weren't so bad...and that I have more of a tendency to gag at smells than previously thought. 

Lesson 23: Potty training is pretty gross. If you have a weak stomach, maybe skip the Plastic Poo Pot bit and migrate straight to the toilet. 

The Unmumsy Mum

Monday, 14 July 2014

Lesson 22: Everyone does it (NCT that is)

NCT groups represent everything I used to imagine life as a parent would be. Largely because they are so very middle class. I don't think that's a sweeping statement (you'll tell me if it is) - NCT groups bring together middle class strangers and plonk them together at summer picnics on Cath Kidston blankets, in John Lewis cafés with rows of iCandys parked up... 

Perhaps the last bit is a slight generalisation, but I feel I am liberty to comment because if I could afford it, this would be my life too

Everyone does NCT. My sister, my best friend, my work colleagues. It is what you do. To me, prior to having Boy One two years ago, NCT was how mums made friends. I planned to sign up straight away. 

Except when I fell pregnant first time around my nearest NCT 'hub' was over 35 miles away. So I decided to go it alone.

Effectively, I decided not to buy myself a new friendship group. I hope that doesn't get taken the wrong way - if anything, at the time I would have paid good money for a guaranteed Mummy Wolf Pack.

But it wasn't to be. And instead, I had to make friends the old fashioned way. I had to force myself to go to  antenatal classes, coffee mornings and Bouncing Baby groups (really not my scene) with other parents. There was no circulation of group contact details, no new network of similar due dates, no automatic organisation of a Group Reunion. 

I had to strike up relationships with strangers who had their own friendship groups, ask them for their numbers, and initiate play dates. I had to make eye contact and small talk and hope a glimmer of common ground would blossom into a friendship, when sometimes all I really wanted was to stay on the sofa and watch Homes Under The Hammer. It was bloody hard work. 

The realisation of having to face Bumps and Babies again.

I have spent two years wondering if I missed out. When my sister/best friend/colleagues/world and his fucking wife describe their NCT Friends, it all seems so easy. You go to the antenatal classes (posher than the 'bog standard' NHS ones an NCT Attendee informed me), and then BOOM, you become a network, you wait for each other to drop a baby and then you become friends for life. 

I'm well aware it doesn't work out this way for all groups. I occasionally hear of 'nightmare NCT friends' and 'the odd one from our NCT group', but above all else I have witnessed (with some jealousy) endless schedules of happy NCT gatherings, birthday parties and all round good support. Whilst I plodded off to another random group in the hope I would find some pals. 

And pals I did find. Not a ready-made group, but a very select number (okay two pals if you must know), who I clicked with straight away. My sort of people. Not people I wanted to like because I would have to meet them monthly and force my husband to bond with their husbands. People I genuinely did LIKE. A harder journey but I have no doubt that we will be friends for life. 

Now preggers for the second (and final) time, I have since moved to an NCT area (not too far away but unfortunately quite far from those special friends) so I am back to square one and have again been faced with the NCT conundrum. 

I don't really need the posh classes this time. I've already passed a small human out of my body and Expressed With The Best Through These Holes in My Chest (god love the Fiat advert). So I put my name down for an NCT Refresher Course. 3 evenings, and the Holy Grail of a reunion (and allocated network) post-birth. To be honest, with a toddler in tow, I could do with the Rent-A-Friend service. Anything to not have to start running again on the making friends treadmill. 

And then I got the email. Bang smack in the middle of a nightmare week of our car going wrong, the kitchen ceiling leaking and the death of my uninsured iPhone via a 40 degree spin cycle, I received registration instructions. And a bill for over £100 (£140 I think it was, there or thereabouts). 

I won't bore you with our financial situation, but in a nutshell whilst this is completely unaffordable for us at the moment we do not qualify for any 'help' with fees. On paper, we have an almost respectable income. In reality, we now buy the thin toilet paper that scratches your arse and the shampoo that looks interchangeable with washing up liquid. 

So I phoned the nice NCT lady and told her she could take me off the list. Farewell Mid-September Exeter baby friends. It was nice almost knowing you.

Hubby has been brilliant. He said we could work something out if it is really important that I do these classes. But it just doesn't sit right with me. 

I don't even want to do the sodding classes. I would be paying £140 or so purely for a new group of friends. Whichever way you look at it, this is expensive for Forced Friendship Fun.

Last week at work, an NCT advocate casually expressed the following when I explained I wouldn't be signing up: 'Such a shame, at least with NCT you know the sorts of Mums and Dads you will be mixing with, if you know what I mean!' 

Well I do know what she means. And despite longing for a network of buddies I don't want to be a part of The Elite. Variety is the spice of life, and I will happily take my chances sharing classes with the other sorts of mums. Some of whom may not be with the Dads. Some of whom may buy substandard toilet roll. Some of whom may just become genuine friends for life. 

So wish me luck as I plod on with my non-NCT journey for the second time. I'm sure I will envy the odd NCT group BBQ or Country Farm Park outing stumbled across on Facebook. I'm sure I will have to drag myself to breast feeding groups (if they keep calling it nursing I'm leaving). I'm sure sometimes I will fail to tear myself away from Homes Under The Hammer. But mostly, I'm sure I will be just fine. 

The Unmumsy Mum

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Lesson 21: What if you're in the wrong job*?

*And by 'job,' I mean parenting. 

What if, all things considered, it just isn't for you? Is that a possibility? Is that even a thing?

When I was at school, we had a  'careers' focus session, where we answered a whole host of questions about what we enjoyed doing, in order to suss out our ideal future profession. I'm pretty sure my 'top match' was Zoo Keeper. I mean, seriously - I liked walking the family dog and spending time outside, but even at 14 this seemed like a random and unambitious prospect. Regardless, an effort was at least made to ascertain if you were cut out for certain sectors.

Nobody does this with parenting. 

There is no 'Motherhood' entry in the A-Z of Careers. You don't get an internship or work placement. You don't need ANY qualifications. You don't even need an interview.

The job offer is simply there. Furthermore, there is no probationary period, no training contract, no time as the Office Junior and no opportunity to ever move companies. You are Chief Executive Officer of The Mothership Ltd from DAY ONE until FOREVER. Congrats. And good bloody luck.

I previously joked about a Motherhood Exam. Clearly, that was intended as a bit of light-hearted entertainment. 'Lol' and all that. 

But seriously, I stand by my long-held observation that it really isn't a job suited to everyone. If I had to demonstrate competencies for the role of Mother, it would soon become apparent that I am actually pretty shit at my job. 

I would never have passed the probation and I certainly would not be trusted to take on additional responsibilities (essentially what is happening now I am growing another human). My end of year Personal Development Review would probably read 'tries reasonably hard but consistently demonstrates the wrong attitude by admitting she is bored with the role, and threatening to walk out.'

Of course there will be no resignation. No career break or sabbatical. No secondment to another department. This is it. 

Sometimes, I listen to The Others who assert that a switch is activated when you become a parent. You are, after all, automatically enrolled in The Club. More often than not, however (when pondering the lack of switch activation), I conclude that being a parent is much like any other job. Some people are really good at their jobs. Some people live for their jobs at the expense of all other activity. And conversation. Some people, and I include myself in this camp, hold down the steady job but often feel the urge to check the Job Pages. You'll never leave (you can't be released from the contract) but even if you could, you wouldn't jump ship. When all is said and done you know the grass isn't eternally greener at Child-Free Bliss plc. 

Lesson 21: Parenting is a tough job. I think 'the hardest job in the world' is a questionable description, but it is the most permanent of jobs you will ever 'apply' for. And even if you are not Employee of the Month material, you will always have the biggest claim to the role. 

The Unmumsy Mum

Friday, 30 May 2014

Lesson 20: Life Is Now

'Live for the moment' they say.
They just might be on to something. 

I mean, I say it. I get it.
I just don't live my life to that tune. 

I am a forward-thinker. A planner. A wisher. 'The moment' for me, is always the moment before something else happens. As a student, I longed to finish University, secure a good job and get a mortgage with my now husband. When absorbed in the world of work, I longed to start a family. When pregnant, I longed to give birth. When I had a newborn, I longed to get back to work...

And now? Well I am pregnant again, working part-time, and living in a Project House (aka the exposed brick conflict zone) mostly looking forward to the end of pregnancy (forever), to finishing the house, and getting a full-time career back on track. 
The Project
I long to not be so bloody skint, and to have money to spend on nice things not purchased on eBay or from The Range (imagine!) With 14 weeks until due date, I simply cannot wait to start doing some proper exercise and start attacking the pregnancy weight gain. Not to mention drinking G&Ts again. 

I'm not enjoying the now.

But I think I could be. I certainly should be.

For these are the moments that will shape the long term family life story beyond all others. Carrying babies in my tummy, investing weekends to sanding woodwork and shifting rubble.  

Arguably the most important years of The Family Story. 
Yet I spend most of my life wishing I could skip straight to Chapter 5.   

So what is to be done? 

Clearly, I am not a 'wake up, count all my blessings, then post them on Facebook' kind of person. I am more of a 'wake up, get into an argument with my two-year-old, then tweet a ranty update' kind of person. 

And there are certain things you can't force yourself to enjoy. Pregnancy, however important to my Greater Life's Plan, remains pretty shit - in my humble opinion, that is. I don't think it is unreasonable to have a small sulk at having to attend all social functions fat and sober.
Preggers again. 
And newborns. Well, I don't really like them. Of course I love my children. But what a marathon of relentless and unreciprocated effort those first few months are. I'm just not a fan. I am not built that way.

But I could give my Constant Forward Planning mode a rest for a while. Before I know it, I will be back to work full time, the house will be in some sort of liveable order and my two boys will be nearing the start of their school days. Right now, I would happily wake up having skipped this bit. 

But one day, someday, I am sure I will look back at the Tough Early Years and regret not having relished the madness of the experience. These years are full of milestones. And whilst motherhood at times seems to bring out the absolute worst in me (shouty rage, boredom, lots of sighing) it also make me laugh. The house is filled with laughter every single day. I don't think I could have said that in the pre-child 'Glory Days'.

Lesson 20: 'Live for the moment' may be a complete cliché, the sort of quote that gets printed on tacky canvas prints for 'inspiration,' but it is actually quite hard to do. I am going to try. 

The Unmumsy Mum

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Lesson 19: What You're Not Allowed to Wish For

Last Tuesday was 20 week scan day. Lying on the bed, smothered in tummy jelly, I once again felt the butterflies and slightly anxious knotty feeling that something might be wrong. Baby might not be healthy. They do, after all, call this the 'anomaly scan' and I'm sure all parents have a pang of desperate hope that everything remains anomaly-free. 

We have one healthy child already. Our beautiful whirlwind of madness, Hurricane Henry. All anybody would wish for would be an equally healthy sibling. Right? 

Well I did wish for that. But I also wished for something else. Something seemingly far less important but all-consuming in the run up to that scan. 

I wished for a girl.
I wanted a girl.

And when the moment of truth presented itself, it was clear to see that this wasn't to be. There wasn't any searching between baby's legs at this scan. Half the bloody screen was willy and balls at one point. 

So we have been blessed with a second son, and all is well. We are so very lucky. 

And yet I cried

Not at first. At first, I delighted in the healthy baby news and laughed at the obvious gender identification. Another little monkey like my Henry. 

But outside the hospital, I burst into tears and more tears came later that afternoon and later still in bed. 

I wanted a girl.

How pathetically selfish of me to be disappointed. I am so very angry at myself for reacting in that way. But that is how I felt. 

I sneer at people on TV who keep trying for more children until they get the sex they have been longing for. I will not be one of those people. As sure as anybody can ever be, I will never have another baby. 

I will never have a girl. 

And that, I believe, is where the upset came from. Growing up as one of two girls I only ever imagined having daughters. I have spent 27 years dreaming of pony club outings and ballet. Of spa trips and chats about boyfriends. Perhaps losing my wonderful Mum as a teenager heightened this longing to have a daughter of my own. Perhaps I just thought it would be special.

So you see, when I felt disappointment at the news Baby Two is to be a boy, this was not at all because I don't want another boy. If you have met my glorious Henry you would understand how very fond of the Mother-Son bond I have become.

I just felt a temporary (but at the time overwhelming) sense of sadness that I will never have a daughter.

And no, I don't think that is an unfair thing to say. 

To say I WOULD HAVE LIKED A GIRL is not to say I don't want my boy. 

My Dad would have liked a son, and as his second (and last) daughter that nugget of information has never lessened my sense of self worth. He loves me unconditionally, as I will love Bump 2. 

Lesson 19: You can't help how you feel. Perhaps we should allow ourselves to 'have a moment' rather than bottling up the unsaid. And then move on, counting our wonderful blessings.

The Unmumsy Mum

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Lesson 18: I'm a Grower Not a Glower

A long time ago, in a land far far away, I bought into the Pregnancy Dream. Shiny hair, glowing skin and a neat and tidy bump displayed gloriously under attractive maternity dresses

Well what a load of shit.

This might be the reality for some women - though if any pregnant 'Glowers' are reading this we can never be friends, just FYI. 

The reality of life Up The Duff, is, in my experience, less 'bloomy' and more gloomy. 

Shiny hair? Nope.

Glowing skin? Are you shitting me? I am grey and slightly zitty, like a hungover pubescent teenager. 

Almost half way through the Preggers Journey for the second time, I have roughly 60 weeks' pregnancy 'experience' under my belt and I HAVE NEVER FUCKING GLOWED. 

Lovely growing bump? Well yes granted it is growing. In close correlation with every other part of my chubby body. My 'bump' is more a tyre of pregnant podge around my middle, spreading slowly to unsuspecting areas like my arms. And chins. 

I don't even know where to start with maternity clothes. You can buy some lovely stuff these days. Truly you can. But I reserve attractive items for special occasions (there may be one such occasion per pregnancy if you are lucky). And for every other day, there are LEGGINGS. 

So what are the perks? I can think of only one...well two actually. My boobs are MASSIVE. Not usually blessed in the boobage department this is an interesting experience. The problem is, I know this is short lived. And that post-birth and breastfeeding these bad boys will deflate to saggy sacks. Sigh.

Lesson 18: Pregnancy is a blessing. But you may not be 'blessed' with a pregnant glow. Prepare for dull skin, erratic weight spread and an overall unattractive demeanour. Just to compliment the puking and tiredness. Obvs.

The Unmumsy Mum

Friday, 28 March 2014

When Mother's Day is a Hard Day

Every year, there is a big build up to Mother's Day. TV adverts, magazine features, online competitions and general mummy mushiness. Generally, I'm not a massive fan of commercial celebratory days, but hey it's Mother's Day. A day to say Thank You, I Love You and 'what you do doesn't go unnoticed.' 

I have no doubt Sunday will be a lovely day spent with my husband and my boy, our last Mother's Day as a unit of three before Baby Two joins the fold.

But is is also a thoughtful day. And my thoughts will be with everyone for whom the Mother's Day message leaves a slightly knotty tummy, or raises a tearful moment, or prompts nostalgic but sad memories. 

Parents who have lost children. A battle you should never have to face and I am so very sorry if you have. I will be thinking of you.

Children who have lost parents. You don't have the chance to say Thank You or I Love You on any day of the year, and Sunday makes this heartbreakingly obvious. I will be thinking of you.

People who could never have children. The day serves as a reminder of what you always wanted but never got. I will be thinking of you.

People who have difficult relationships with their parents or their children. There may not be any cards or flowers and you may spend the day wishing things were so very different. I will be thinking of you.

On the happiest of days I will be sparing a thought for those who are not able to feel at their happiest. And above all, I will be thinking of my Mum, who I would have spoilt rotten were she still here.

The Unmumsy Mum