Continuing in a positive spirit, today I have been thinking about the simple things in life that give me pleasure.

If you don’t take time out to focus on what makes you happy, it is all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tedium of parenting alone. Washing, cleaning, cooking – admittedly I don’t do a huge amount of any of those things, but the responsibility is still mine, should I choose to accept it.

Sometimes I worry that the things I enjoy are rather dull. I don’t do any kind of extreme sports, or have a secret part-time job as a lion tamer. I don’t drive fast cars or jet off every weekend on exotic city mini-breaks – my life is much more acoustic folk than rock and roll. I did once jump out of a plane, but to be honest I found the whole free-falling thing quite boring – you just hang there after all, and not much else happens.

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Firstly, please let me apologise for my last post.  I had had a couple of rather emotionally exhausting days, and clearly wasn’t feeling myself. I am now back though, and to lighten the mood I am going to write about parties. I don’t want everyone to think I am some kind of isolated single parent who spends all  their time at home alone, pacing about, writing occasional bursts of gibberish.

I love parties. I get to dress up, drink cocktails and talk to men. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, I don’t often get invited to parties (sob). I don’t know if it’s just that no one I know has them much, or that I am particularly disliked, but I never have to push my way through piles of invitations to get to the front door. It’s the same with weddings  – everyone else I know seems to be complaining constantly about having the spend every weekend over the summer at a wedding, but I’ve only been to about five in my whole life.

So, to solve the problem, I basically have to throw my own parties. Being the host has its benefits of course – you get to set the date, choose the fancy dress theme, and not have to worry about staggering home without your shoes on and dropping your chips. It does mean you have to spend the next week cleaning red wine off things, but it’s a small price to pay.

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Do you ever have days where you can’t sit still? You find yourself flitting from one thought to the next, unable to focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time? Maybe it’s a bad ADHD day, or maybe it’s just that end of the week Friday feeling, but today I just can’t get in the zone.

My head feels full. I want to write, but I can’t get anything out, I can’t form my thoughts into a sensible order. I’ve been wandering around, waiting for the jumble of Things I Really Must Do to form themselves into something witty and intelligent, but they just aren’t.

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Before you start thinking ‘three in a bed, what’s not to love?…’, let me make it clear I am talking babies here.

Before you have them, other parents joke about ‘sleepless nights’, but until you become a parent yourself you just don’t appreciate the hell of being kept awake all night by the horrendous squawky crying and irritating writhing that babies combine so well.

Anyway, regular readers will have gathered by now that my parenting style is fairly ‘instinctive’, (a euphemism my critics may say for lazy or ill-informed), and the books I read and the friendships I form are chosen very carefully, designed to support rather than inform the choices I make.

We all know that you can find a study (or friend) to back up any argument, and I always manage to justify the decisions I make. It’s a bit like shopping – “But these shoes were in the sale, so technically I have saved money, and they go with everything, so represent excellent cost per wear value..”

I’d be the first to admit that my parenting isn’t always selfless, but honestly, TV can be terribly educational you know. There are some choices I make though that, although they have not made my life easy for me at the time, I feel confident were absolutely the right thing to do for us.

One of these is sleep. Bee slept through the night from six weeks old. I don’t say this in a gloating way, it’s just a fact. Although at the time I smugly put it down to my ‘laid back parenting style’ (oh what a young foolish woman I was), on reflection I realise it was just luck. She did however sleep in the same room as me, and at times in a bed pushed right up against mine, until she was at least 18 months old. If I’m honest this was less a philosophical standpoint and more a matter of logistics, living as we were then with my mum in one bedroom. It felt right though, and I never had the urge to push her out into her own room.

And then I had Belle.

It would be fair to say that Belle didn’t sleep quite as well as her sister. In fact, she woke up regularly at hourly intervals throughout the night until she was about two, and it was only when she started school that she began to sleep right through.

Many of these nights were spent with her in our bed, often with her Dad relegated to a mattress on the floor. When she got older she moved into her own room, but this just meant I had further to stumble in the night when she woke crying, and that I slept even less. If you’ve ever done that teenage thing of sharing a single bed with another person, it’s like that, only worse, as you can’t really shove a toddler against the wall in protest of them stealing all the covers. Well you can, but I believe it is frowned upon in parenting circles.

My point is…what is my point?…ah yes, my point is that I never resorted to controlled crying. Babies only really have one way of telling us something is wrong, and although it’s a shame that the one way is so loud and piercing, it has a purpose. Whatever the parenting gurus like to have us believe, babies don’t cry as some kind of elaborate mind game, to test us, or to prove a point. They cry because they are upset and need comforting. So when my babies cried, I comforted them. Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but there are plenty of parents who don’t do it.

I was delighted therefore to have my choices validated this weekend in The Guardian  by psychologist Oliver James. James’ examination of the evidence shows that ‘unresponsiveness’, i.e. ignoring your baby when it cries, has been shown to have serious long-term consequences. Having your cries go unheard as a child can make you insecure as an adult and lead to emotional vulnerability in your future relationships. James also highlights how unique we are in this country in believing babies should be sleeping alone – 79% of  societies around the world normally have their infants in the same room, 44% in the same bed.

So why are co-sleepers so often made to feel like freaks? When ever anyone tells me their baby shares their bed, it tends to be in a conspiratorial whisper – ‘I know I shouldn’t, but…’. We feel guilty, weak maybe, despite the evidence showing we’re actually setting our kids up for a healthier adult life.

I thorny subject maybe, but I’m happy at least that one of my parenting choices has turned out to be a good one. Now all I need is a study showing Oreos make a wholesome breakfast and I’m set.

Photo credit: Paul Goyette


I’ve always had a childlike excitement when it comes to post. Every day I wait eagerly for the sound of the postman carefully trying to wrestle the letters through my rather precarious letterbox – hanging as it does by a single screw.

Although the post normally consists solely of bills, reminders for sight tests, and credit card statements intent on highlighting just how much money I have spent that month on coffee and snacks, I still feel a sense of eager anticipation as I gather the handful of white envelopes up off the dirty tiles. Maybe today will be the day that the postman brings me a long awaited love letter from Colin Firth, or perhaps news that a previously unknown spinster aunt has died and bequeathed me her vast estate, cats and all. But alas, no.

This week though I was rewarded with a package. A squishy brown envelope all the way from California. Now I don’t know anyone in California, so my curiosity was immediately aroused. I tore the package open and out dropped an envelope and a CD. How exciting! I felt like a spy. Would the envelope contain instructions on how to use the CD to download some kind of secret code?


But it was just as intriguing…

“Ciao Slummy Mummy,” it began, “Come stai? My name is Bill, but my artist name is Seamus O’Conner. I was in Italy a couple of weeks ago and the car I rented had this wonderful CD of Italian songs…I hope you might enjoy them, I am giving you a piece of my Italian experience.”

For a blissful thirty seconds I imagined an american artist driving through Italy, thinking of me, moved to spontaneously send me music from the other side of the world. How romantic! Maybe this was better than an unexpected inheritance. And then I read on and heard about his wife. Hmm… that shattered the dream somewhat. Puzzled, I suddenly realised what was going on – it was my parcel from the Secret Post Club! Not an international stalker after all. Boring.

So thank you very much to Seamus O’Conner for bringing such excitement to an other wise fairly ordinary day. Proof if ever any were needed that good things do come to those who wait. So come on Colin, what are you waiting for?

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds