Mother’s Day has changed

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. Partly because work has been crazy but also because we’ve had a bereavement. At the end of February I lost my grandmother. 

She was nearly 90 and lived a great life, full of passion and enthusiasm, so we can ‘celebrate’ her life in a way she would have wanted. But when it comes down to it, she was still a mother. Now my mum doesn’t have a mother. 

This made Mother’s Day so much more difficult. Whilst I wanted to enjoy my first one as a mum of two, I had to support her. This was the first time in her 60+ years she hadn’t been able to speak to her mum on Mother’s Day. She’ll never be able to do it again.

It breaks my heart. It really dawned on me that many people have to go through this. Whilst shop window are full of presents and gifts, telling you to treat your mum, lots of people are hurting inside because they’ll never get to do it. 

Longing for lie-ins

I’ve always been a lover of sleep. Even before children, I was the kind of person that would count how many hours I’d be able to get each night, lusting after at least 8 hours. Since then I realised counting would just be like emotional  torture. Knowing I’m only going to get 3 hours would probably make me so upset I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. 

With newborns, you know the deal. They’ll wake up every few hours to feed or nappy change. It then takes you an hour to get back to sleep because you are worried something might happen to them or can’t remember if you put your leftovers in the fridge. You are prepared for it. And you know it will, in most cases, last a few months then they’ll be sleeping through. Bliss.

But it’s after the newborn stage that gets me. My boys both wake up by around 6am. Yes, 6am. Every. Single. Day. Regardless of what time they went to bed. Once they are awake, they are up. 

Boy 1 runs to our room (still at the age of seven) and climbs over me and into our bed with his cold hands and feet. Sometimes he’ll even have a random Lego construction to wave in our faces with pride. 

Then he hears his brother so climbs back over me to go and see him. Yes it’s lovely, they’ll have a ‘chat’ for a few minutes and giggle, but then Boy1 suddenly remembers “hmmm I want to go back to that warm big bed” and just abandons his brother. Climbs back over me, feet still cold. 

Cue screams from Boy2 for being suddenly abandon. So one of us goes to get him and brings him to our bed, where he suddenly decides it’s playtime.

So by about 620 there are four of us in the bed. Two of us trying to sleep, the other two chatting, giggling, wriggling and gradually pushing their parents closer to edge of the bed. 

I thought Boy1 might have grown out of this habit by now (is that wrong?). The bed just isn’t big enough. And all I want is a lie in! 

I want to wake up and see daylight creeping through the gap in the curtains, but know I can just close my eyes and go back to sleep. Or pop down stairs to make a cuppa to bring back to bed without the fear of being hassled for cereal/ toast/ pancakes/ juice/ board games/ Lego. Or even, heaven forbid, have a chat with the hubby. 

Yep I’m selfish. I know one day I’ll miss the fact they want cuddles and a chat when they first wake up. One day I’ll be dragging them out of bed and begging for the slightest bit of conversation I can squeeze out of them. But for now, all I want is one long, quiet, lie-in…

Why I don’t mind being the mum-chauffer

Today, like every Saturday,  we spent half the day focused on Boy1. Instead of a weekend lie-in  we are up and out taking him to sports practice, so our weekend doesn’t really start until 1pm.

Before parenthood,  I’d hear stories about how much time parents spend taxiing their offspring from one place to another. From clubs to lesson, in between parties and events. I always thought that was just for a certain kind of parent. I conjured up this image of pushy, middle class parents, prepping their children’s CVs or UCAS applications a decade  in advance by signing them up to various sports and music classes. Why else would a grown adult spend their limited free time ferrying their kids from one class to another?

Fast forward 7 and a half years and guess what, I’ve become the mother chauffer. Boy 1’s list of extra curricular activities currently includes football, swimming, tennis, guitar, clarinet and Minecraft club (don’t ask). Before I returned to work, we actually added Spanish and fencing into the mix (how very Cheshire), but they were cut short once working life resumed.

But my reasons for his endless list of activities has nothing to do with applications or impressing others. The only CV I’m focussing on is his CV of life experience.  Of the grand list of hobbies, the only ones we actively put him forward for were swimming (life skill) and football (exercise and teamwork) quite a few years ago and he still enjoys both. Everything else was all down to the boy himself.

You see, I have an active 7 year old. He’s interested in learning how things work, how he can acquire a skill, making new friends. I want him to try new things, discover his strengths, weaknesses, passions and dislikes. I don’t want to be the one to put out that fire of enthusiasm just yet – life will inevitably do that at some point.

Right now he loves the fact he can play James Bay’s Hold back the River, reaaaally slowly. Whilst they don’t win very often, the sense of camaraderie I’ve seen in his football team is simply magical. He’s enjoying life. He’s learning so many life lessons outside of classroom and it’s great.

He also has a ridiculous amount of energy to burn. If he wasn’t running around for 2 hours on a Saturday morning, he’d be driving us crazy come mid-afternoon.

Thankfully we can afford to fund all of these activities at the moment. I just wish it was the case for all under-10s. Just think how many Olympians, Oscar or Brit Award winners we might be able to nurture if all children had the chance to try new hobbies. How many miss out on discovering their talent because they were never given the chance.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t just sign up for a new club as soon as he sees it on TV. There’s usually some kind ‘interview’ stage to gauge his level of genuine interest. Plus he knows he can’t just give up a hobby as soon as he decides he doesn’t like it or finds it hard, without putting any effort in. That’s another lesson right there!

I know at some point we’ll need to reduce the number of activities. He’ll have more homework or exams to deal with, or we’ll have to start allocating some activity budget to Boy2. Or he’ll just get bored.

But until then, it’s my job to encourage this zest for life and learning. And to do this I’ll need to keep on chauffeuring. Pass my keys…

 

Why work-life ‘balance’ isn’t for me

When I had Boy1 and declared my intention to go back to work, I became overwhelmed by conversations, articles, reports and the like about finding the ‘balance’ between work and home life. As someone who prides themselves on their organisational skill, I thought I’d have it sorted quickly. Schedules, reminders, booking things waaay in advance, I did it all. All in the name of ‘balance’.

But something wasn’t right. Whilst I looked like I was on top of it for the first few months, I was genuinelly beating myself up because I felt I hadn’t found that ‘balance’. I constantly felt confused and guilty for not getting it right, because I my time and headspace just weren’t evenly split between work and life.

Then at some point, about three months in, I had to question if balance was what I actually aspired to.

Emotionally my family will always be more of a priority than my work.  Yet in terms of time, at the moment anyway, I have to spend more days at work than with my family. I can’t expect both to be equal. Plus ‘life’ covers so many more elements than ‘work’, from spending time with children, feeding/clothing them, transporting them to clubs and classes, housekeeping, seeing friends, not forgetting my husband, oh and doing stuff for me (which usually involves a monthly trip to the gym, a 5min eyebrow appointment, or a sneaky coffee whilst child is asleep in the buggy).

Balance wasn’t right for me. In my mind it implies some kind of equilibrium, with all elements taking an equal share of the big chunky, mixed up, pie that is my life. But I don’t want my work to be equal to my children, or eyebrows for that matter. What I actually want is the ability to prioritise the different elements of my life (work included) at different times without feeling guilty. For me, that’s different to balance.

These days, I try to avoid the term altogether. I prefer to use the analogy of juggling. When you are a competent juggler, you have a number of different balls to deal with. At any one time, you’ll have at least one ball in your hand, you know exactly where it is. The other balls are up in the air dangling above your head. You know where they are but they don’t have all of your attention just yet.

Last week I was at my desk, work ball securely in hand, until I got a call from the childminder to say Boy2 was unwell and needed to go home. At that point I had to make a decision. I had to throw my proverbial work ball up in the air so I could grab hold of my motherhood ball.

Once he had been tended to back home, I then had to take hold of the housework ball and sort out food. Then the teacher ball came out and I helped Boy1 with some homework. Once that was done, the work ball was back in hand for a couple of hours.

You see, this is what happens in life. Not just for working parents, but anyone who works and has a life of some sort. Its all about knowing which balls need to be in your hand at any given time and which balls you can let go of, safe in the knowledge you’ll grab hold of them again. Sometimes you will have to let go of the motherhood ball and miss an assembly, so that you can go to that all important work meeting. But sometimes you’ll decide to throw the housework ball up in the air so you can go splashing in puddles with the mummy ball. And don’t ever forget the ‘you’ ball. It’s usually the smallest one in my juggling bag, but I try not to forget it (the eyebrows are a visual reminder).

None of these balls can be let go of for too long, otherwise they’ll all fall down around you. That’s happened to me on a fair few occasions, but as soon as you drop them, pick them back up and start again, maybe at a different pace, with a different style or with some help.

I’ve come to realise that I can’t let anyone else’s juggling style influence my own. Everyone will have a different number of balls of different sizes or weights and they’ll need to juggle at a different pace. I’ve had to find my own style. And guess what, the guilt levels have reduced massively.

People might say I’ve found a balance, but I’ve really just become a great juggler. Let’s face it I feel like a bit of a clown at times, but hey, my kids seem to love me for it.

xx

Disclaimer: the juggling analogy is just how I view juggling. I could have it totally wrong. I am by no means a competent juggler in real life, so any jugglers out there should not take offence.

NOTE: This post first appeared on the fabulous Selfish Mother

I love books but World Book Day?! 

It’s the first Thursday in March, the day most parents dread, but most school children enjoy. Yes, it’s World Book Day.
I really try to encourage reading in our house. I’ve done bed time reading since the boys were tiny babies, and now that he’s confidently reading ‘chapter books’, Boy1 still enjoys reading for hours. In fact I often find myself telling him not to read after discovering he’s still at it 2 hours after he went to bed.

Given this growing squad of booklovers, you’d think I was a fan of World Book Day. In some regards you’d be correct. I’m a real fan of reading and the benefits it can bring. I love the idea of celebrating the joy of literacy. And the fact that every child in the country gets a £1 voucher is amazing. Especially because there are special £1 books for the event, meaning those on limited budgets can still get a new book. Fantastic!

But it seems as though over the years some schools (and let’s be honest, some parents) have let the literacy side of the scheme fall by the wayside. It has somehow become a fancy dress parade.

Some children aren’t even dressed as book characters, unless Spider-Man and Elsa were in Hans Christian Anderson’s earlier, Unknown work.

Parents stressing over what to dress their child in because they are a) unhealthily competitive b) rubbish at crafts or c) not a fan of fancy dress, is just not necessary. The only real need is for them to contribute to the flurry of (extremely cute) photos on Facebook.

Boy 1 is certainly in the latter camp. For three years running we’ve had to rummage through his clothes to create some kind of outfit that slightly resembles that of a character he likes. We’ve shoved a Wocket in his Pocket (thanks Dr Seuss) and pulled out a Thing 1 tshirt.

his Wocket, happily sitting in his pocket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But whilst I would find it easier if my son enjoyed wearing silly costumes, I’d still want to focus on books.

Why not just encourage children to bring in their favourite book? Maybe even do a story swap so their fellow pupils can get to enjoy a new story. Figures show that children are reading less and less these days and this is our annual opportunity to capture their imaginations and encourage reading. Please please let’s not waste it.

I’m now off to pour away our Marvellous Medicine!