queen of faff

Former secret writer. This is my rehab.


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Stuck

I’m sitting here with pen in hand,

but hesitant to write.

The censorship’s inside my head

No editors in sight.

 

I often think in prose and rhyme

but rarely write them ‘out’.

My head is full, instead, with words

My pages, empty with my doubt.

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Fat fairies

A few weeks ago, while playing with my three year old, she told me I couldn’t be the fairy godmother to her Cinderella. “Why not?”, I enquired. “Because she’s fat”, came the reply.

Of course, the postpartum part of me, having given birth to her baby brother a few months earlier, was chuffed to bits with this declaration. The warrior mama part of me however, was not.

My daughter’s only visual Cinderella frame of reference is the 1950’s Disney film, and whilst the godmother is more rotund than Cinderella herself, I was and remain baffled as to why my/her physical appearance was the barrier to the part, rather than say, my lack of wand or ability to turn pumpkins into carriages – I have never needed plaits or royal lineage to be the Anna to her Elsa after all.

Fast forward to two nights ago and I was reading her a book, Florence was no ordinary Fairy. Borrowed from the library, I was reading it for the first time, out loud, to my three year old. The basic premise being that Florence doesn’t like fairy things, won’t sit atop a Christmas tree or grant wishes etc, but does adore fairy cakes, eats too many of them and gets too fat for her fairy wings to carry her. Cue scolding from Queen fairy for eating too much and getting heavy.

What are we doing to our children that they can be fed such shite about fatness and fitness at such a young age? A recent BBC report showed that 34% of 10-15 year old girls are unhappy with their appearance. I know I can’t protect her from societal pressure and that how she feels about how she looks when she’s a teenager could be hugely problematic but does it really have to start now?

I don’t talk about how I look in front of her. Sure, she sees me doing my hair and makeup, but even on days I’m lamenting the skinny jeans I can’t get back into yet, I don’t comment on it within earshot of my children. I don’t flinch when she pokes my soft belly, still recovering from growing her brother. I do my best to promote strong and healthy as body aspirations, rather than thin and pretty.

And yet.

And yet she knows fat. She sees fat. Goddamm this superficial world that is harming my daughter already.


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Failing at motherhood

I told my husband tonight I felt like I was failing at motherhood. I’d felt that way all day and had been crying before he ever got home from work. I have a three (and a half) year old and a nearly three month old and for the love of whichever god you believe in I don’t know why it feels like I should pretend that I don’t find that hard.

I find it hard to pay my toddler the amount of attention she needs (or just wants?) while at the same time trying to keep on top of the endless laundry. My parents came to visit us today and my mum helped me peg out the washing (the second load of the day as the first load had been in the machine at 8.30am). I cried as she washed my dishes because I felt like I should be able to manage.

When a delivery of boxes to organise our chaotic house turned up and nearly half of them were broken I thought I was going to lose my mind whilst spending ages on hold to sort it out, followed by simultaneously trying to decide which order to tend to my children in whilst tidying up the chaos I had intended to pack away into the boxes and fold yet more laundry because there’s no way in hell I’m getting the iron out.

I’d had the slow cooker on since 10.30 am to make an easy yet nutritious tea, a desperate attempt to wean my toddler off beige and breadcrumb coated food. It was met with a ‘bleugh’ at lunchtime as I showed it to her, followed by a “I’m too tired to eat my tea mummy” at dinner time.

So I retreated upstairs as the tears fell, wondering what I’m doing wrong, wondering why I feel so goddam guilty about finding things so goddam hard. I don’t want to hear how lucky I am, how quickly this will pass, how quickly they will grow or how soon my own children will be saying all this to me. I don’t want to be told I’m selfish because some people can’t have children, I really fucking appreciate mine. I don’t want to be told I made my bed….., because I know, and I wouldn’t change it.

I just want people to talk about how fucking hard it is, how lonely. How one more game of nursery or Topsy and Tim might tip you over the edge and that that’s normal.

So I told my husband I was failing at motherhood today. Largely on account of the amount of guilt I feel at not doing more or better. He asked me how many children I’d washed, dressed and fed today. “Two” I replied though my tears.

“Doesn’t sound like your failing to me”, he said.

Perspective restored. 


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Trampolines and sycamore seeds

As a person I am instinctively, or perhaps habitually, mean to myself. My inner voice isn’t soothing and encouraging, it is harsh, cruel and critical.

Maybe it is inevitable then that as a mother, I am pulled subconsciously towards focusing on the things I don’t do well, on the things I could undoubtedly do better.

Tonight, in my in-laws’ garden, I was given a gift.

” Come play with me on the trampoline Mummy”.

My two and a half year old sought me out to play with her. Me. She talks in full and sophisticated sentences. She is curious and smart. After some time bouncing and chasing each other she says “I’m a bit tired Mummy. Let’s sit down and have a little rest”.

She snuggles into me, puts her hand on my leg, taps it gently and says simply “We’re still best friends”.

As we sit there in a wonderful, comfortable, contented silence, I also sit with the unfamiliar feeling of doing something so incredibly right.

We run and jump some more, sharing fun and each other’s company, then we lie down in the middle of the trampoline, and rest some more.

“Look at the clouds,” I say, pointing, “Aren’t they moving fast?”.

“That’s not fast Mummy,” she replies, “they’re moving slow”.

I wonder at our different perceptions of time and speed.

We turn sycamore seeds into helicopters, then chase each other some more, and as I listen to her delightful squeals, I wonder how long it will be before she thinks clouds move quickly too.


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Sleep when they sleep

Sleep when she sleeps” was the most well intended, ubiquitous and overwhelmingly unhelpful piece of advice I received after the birth of my daughter.

I say ubiquitous because in the early days it really did feel like everyone I met who noticed I had a newborn would say it to me. Not just friends and family, but my midwife, health visitor, the supermarket cashier (upon noticing my baggy eyes and pale face).

I say well intended, because it was just that. The message really being that I was important too and that my rest was also important. After all, if I didn’t take care of myself, how was I going to take care of my baby.

It remains however, one of the most unhelpful things people have ever uttered to me following the arrival of our small person, regardless of the thoughtful intent behind the words. It is even more frustrating to hear when you are sleep deprived and just generally exhausted.

The reason it is so unhelpful is because quite simply – in my world at least – it just doesn’t work like that.

Take my baby for example, she is not a good napper. She also does not cope well with being tired. Trying to persuade a baby that she needs a nap when she is quite positive that she doesn’t, is one of the less enjoyable aspects of parenthood. She naps very easily if she is being pushed around in the buggy, or taken for a drive in the car, or gently rocked in my arms from side to side. A little impractical for me though, to be napping while I am doing any of those things for her.

She often falls asleep after feeding, but she is a light sleeper during the day, and will wake as soon as I move her (regardless of how long I wait to move her!). I often have to weigh up whether it’s more important for me to move to do x,y or z, or whether I should sit still with her on my lap for as long as she needs to sleep.

This post isn’t really about the sleep patterns of my child though.  What motherhood is making me increasingly aware of is our use of language and the failing communication between what people say and what they mean. “Sleep when she sleeps” is just an example. It works really well for babies that nap well and parents that fall asleep easily (I suppose exhaustion might do that to you). For the rest of us – it makes us wonder if we could have pre-ordered the sleeping variety.

I saw a facebook post recently of a response that my sister had given to a desperately tired and sleep deprived new mum. She said “Nap when you can”. A subtle difference in the choice of words perhaps and the same intended message, but if someone had used that phrase for me in the early days it would have made a big difference to the message I received and the associated pressure that I felt because I wasn’t managing to sleep through the day.

I’m typing this blog while my baby sleeps. Trouble is that the reason she is sleeping is because she is in a sling on my back and my earlier walking around the house lulled her to sleep. If I take her out, she will wake up.

So, I don’t sleep when she sleeps.

But I will nap when I can.


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The Hobby of Motherhood

I was recently asked by someone who (in my opinion), should have known better, what my hobbies were. A seemingly innocent question no doubt, but asked by a health professional of a first-time mum it can be, and was by me, interpreted as a loaded question.

The question itself made me cross, rather than cry. As a brand new, and sleep deprived parent, it could have easily gone the other way. I responded, (slightly incredulously), that I didn’t at the current time, have any hobbies. I was then told about a new mum who, after watching Paul Hollywood‘s programme on bread, had started baking her own.

Again, a seemingly innocent anecdote, and I am sure the intended motive behind the question was to see if I was making time for me, and having a life ‘beyond the baby’. The reality is that I’m not.

I am a mother to a three month old and we are getting to know each other more and more each day. Her needs change and my world adapts each time they do. Sometimes I get enough sleep and sometimes I don’t. The important thing is that I feed her, change her, play with her, whenever she needs it.

And if that means I take up abseiling, or basket weaving or playing the saxophone at a later date, or indeed never, then so be it. Besides, Paul talks about gluten far too much for a coeliac like me. Even before my diagnosis and before motherhood, I would never have had the urge to bake my own bread. I’m far too lazy.

So I questioned why I got so cross. I think it is because of the way the question was phrased. With the implication that I should be doing something more than I am, when the reality is that at this stage I am super proud of myself if I get me and my daughter washed and dressed every day and do something radical like, I don’t know…..make it out of the house.

So my life at the moment is all about the baby. I’m ok with that. I just wish people would choose their words more carefully. New parents feel under enough pressure to be the best they have ever been and could possibly be, without feeling judged because they bite the hands off anyone else who, quite literally, offers to feed them.