One of the things I struggle most with as a parent is consistency. When it comes to setting boundaries and laying down the law, I often find myself floundering. I can’t quite get my head around the idea that it is completely up to me, that I can just decide. Sometimes this power goes to my head and I find myself saying ‘no’ to the most innocent of requests. Catch me in a rebellious mood though and I will happily let Belle watch hours of TV in the nude (don’t ask), offer up toast and chocolate spread for dinner and quickly succumb to my children’s requests for that guiltiest of pleasures – garage tea.

For me, being a single mother makes consistent parenting even more of a challenge. I don’t have another sensible adult on hand to keep me grounded or to question why I think it is ok to let Belle watch 12 certificate films, but not ok for her to eat a bag of maltesers while she does it. (Funnily enough, the malteser website says you have to be 12 or over to enter – how weird is that – so maybe I’m not being so unreasonable after all!)

Of course I do have my mother. She is always happy to challenge me, often in front of the children, about my take on discipline. But however reasonable she may be, she is my mother, and my childish side kicks in, making it seem suddenly even more important that Belle eat all her peas before being allowed a pudding. Why? Because I am her mother and I say so. No other reason that ‘just because’.

Not wanting to sound too much like a Marks & Spencer advert, I have been trying lately to challenge myself, to think more carefully about what rules and routines are actually important and which are just me flexing my mummy muscles for the sake of it. The trouble is, that once I start questioning things, my pinball machine brain runs away with me. Will tidy bedrooms really make us happier?  Does it actually matter if Belle finishes her peas when ultimately we are all going to die anyway? You see my problem.

My sense of discipline also varies hugely depending on my own selfish needs and fluctuates with my mood. If I have a deadline looming, the Disney Channel suddenly becomes a much more attractive option. When I’m tired, I can easily convince myself that ordering vegetable supreme as a Domino’s pizza topping constituents several of our five-a-day.

Yesterday I had one of those days when my own preoccupations meant Belle was free to wander the house, watch back to back Hannah Montana and eat Weetos out of box. Now I know in my heart of hearts that Weetos do not a wholesome supper make, but I get sucked in by idea of them being ‘fortified with vitamins and iron’ and they are just so yummy.

Busy in the garden with my pressure washer – relocating the moss and mud from the patio onto the walls and my face – I ignored Belle’s plaintive cries for snacks. It was only when I realised it wasn’t actually late-afternoon at all, but nearly 8pm, that I thought I should probably come in and rustle up a healthy snack.

Unfortunately the fridge contained only Carlsberg and Jarlsberg (what are the chances??) so I turned instead to the emergency freezer drawer. 20 minutes later we were tucking into fish fingers and naan bread. By rights it should have been bedtime for Belle, but having neglected her for most of the afternoon I decide to let her stay up with me and watch Jonathan Creek. We are half way through before I wonder if it’s really suitable for a sensitive seven-year-old, but I put my hands over her eyes for the bit where the crazy secretary is having afternoon tea with the corpse of her former boss, so I think it’s ok.

When we finally get to bed Belle is overtired and a little traumtised and wants to come in my bed. I say no – kindly but firmly. Five minutes later she is back, but again I say no. In my head I decide that if she asks again I will say yes, so ten minutes later she is asleep next to me, thus rendering my initial resistance fairly pointless. What kind of rubbish parent develops a method of saying no twice, then yes on the third attempt? It doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.

But maybe it doesn’t need to. Maybe my fickleness is teaching my girls a valuable lesson about the inconsistencies of life and the importance of determination and persistance in getting what you want. Perhaps I am actually being a Very Good Mum, subtly showing them that life as an adult isn’t always fair or rational. Yes, that sounds plausible. Excellent. Now, Sunday lunch, Wheetos all round I think…

Photo credit: GavinLi

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I read an interesting article in The Times yesterday about Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The woman writing the piece had been to see a therapist about her chronic lateness and they had suggested she might be displaying symptoms of Adult ADHD. I read on with interest, and a lot of what was said felt familiar to me. I am hopeless at remembering names, I’m clumsy, forgetful and my children will bear witness to my habit of setting off to new places without a map, certain I will get there somehow, at some point.

I think about my career and relationship history – patchy to say the least – and wonder if this is just another symptom. It’s true that I get very bored easily, and that I worry about getting bored, so will take on lots of new projects all the time just in case. I do also have an occasionally alarming habit of drifting off into my own thoughts, especially when driving. I will often look around and have no real idea of how far along my journey I am, how fast I am going, or what the speed limit is.

I struggle sometimes in conversations too, normally with people I don’t know so well, or if I know I really have to pay attention. In meetings I sometimes find I am hearing sounds coming from other people’s mouths, but however hard I concentrate, I can’t make the words make sense, or stay in my head.

The reference in the article to ‘to do’ lists makes me laugh. It says lists are hopeless for someone with ADHD. Ask us to make a list and we will write down 100 things, start them all and then panic. It sounds all too familiar. But is this really a diagnosable condition, or just modern life as a single parent with two children and a collection of jobs?

I decide to do a quiz online, as obviously a random cyber-test is the most effective way to diagnose important medical conditions.  There are some questions that strike a chord. Are my thoughts like static in my head? Do they whizz round my brain like a pin ball machine? Well yes, but this doesn’t sound terribly scientific to me…

A lot of the questions don’t feel relevant though – I don’t have a short temper, I’m not easily upset and I don’t think I could say that I’d rather be up doing something all the time than having a nice sit down. I feel quite relieved, I’m surely not going to score highly in this case.

I finish the quiz and get a score of 70. Hmmm.

If you scored… You may have…
70 & up
50 – 69
35 – 49
25 – 34
0 – 24
Adult ADHD
Moderate ADHD
Mild ADHD
Borderline ADHD
No ADHD likely

 

OK, no need to panic. Einstein had ADHD after all, and sufferers are likely to be highly creative, instinctive and full of energy, so maybe it’s a good thing. I read the blurb underneath:

“It is highly likely that you are presently suffering from adult attention deficit disorder, according to your responses on this self-report questionnaire. You should not take this as a diagnosis of any sort, or a recommendation for treatment. However, it would be advisable and likely beneficial for you to seek further diagnosis from a trained mental health professional immediately.”

Immediately? That sounds a bit worrying. What does that mean exactly? Should I be phoning the local mental health team and handing myself in? Obviously I can’t possibly do that today, as I have a hundred other things to be getting on with. I need to take the bed I sawed in half last night to the tip, I have several work deadlines to meet, and I’m half way through pressure washing my patio.

I will just have to add ‘seek medical help’ to my list…

Why not take the test and tell me how you score?

Photo credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

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Firstly – Happy Easter! I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend and have eaten suitably horrendous quantities of mini-eggs. I know I have.

Before I began my weekend of gorging, I was tagged by the fabulous Linda Jones of You’ve Got Your Hands Full, asking me to tell you seven previously undisclosed things about myself. If you haven’t come across Linda before, where have you been? I have yet to meet Linda in person, but I am already in awe of her. Everywhere I go in the virtual world, Linda seems to be there already. She is amazing!

Anyway, I have been thinking about this all weekend and to be honest I’ve been struggling. I think I’m pretty open most of the time and I’ve been having a hard time coming up with things that I won’t have told someone already. Obviously I can’t mention the bank heist, and David made me promise to keep my three way romp with him and Samantha under wraps in the run up to the election. Ergh, I have made myself feel rather queasy even joking about that one. Quick, change the subject.

So I’m wracking my brains here for seven things that you don’t know about me, but that will make me seem intruguing and glamourous. I’m hoping if I just type and don’t think about it, something will spill out onto the screen.

So here goes:

  1. OK, here’s one I’m quite pleased with. In 2008 I made a New Year’s Resolution to read 100 books in a year. I was fed up with having piles of half-read books lying around the house, and needed some motivation to finish them. I managed 104, which I think is pretty good going for a year. Um…ok…now I am stuck. I just asked Bee for ideas and she couldn’t think of anything. Does this mean I am just very honest, or just very dull??
  2. “Have you ever been in prison?” asks Bee. No, I’ve never even been arrested. “Lame,” she says.
  3. “Do you play a musical instrument?” asks the young boy on my sofa who is draped over Bee. Actually, yes, this could count as one. At school I played the guitar and the cello. I had an accordion for a while too. Not terribly glamourous though.
  4. I have never been married or owned a house. (Commitment issues)
  5. I’ve had sex at the top of Glastonbury Tor. (Exhibitionist)
  6. I have a giant poster of Zac Efron on my study wall. It was a Christmas present from Bee, I didn’t actively seek it out and buy it myself. He is 22 though, so it’s fine.
  7. I have a naked picture of myself on my bedroom wall. That was a Christmas present too actually. I’m nearly 32 though – is that still fine?

So now it is up to me to pass this on to seven of my mummy blogging chums. Ladies if you accept the challenge, you should:

  • Copy the award to your blog
  • Insert a link to the person who nominated you (i.e. me!)
  • Tell us seven things about yourself that you haven’t told us before
  • Nominate seven other bloggers for the award
  • Link to their blogs
  • Tell the nominees about their award

So my seven super nominees are From Marketing to Milk, Diary of a (not so) Single Mum, Babyrambles, Metropolitan Mum, Hot Cross Mum, Super Single Mum and Mommy Has a Headache.

Thanks!

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A friend asked me this week what my dream job would be, if children weren’t a consideration.

I found that pretty hard to answer, as I can’t remember a time when children haven’t been a consideration, and I’ve no idea what that would feel like. I already had one by the time I was 17, so I never experienced the luxury of being able to legally drink and drive (not together of course) without a child in tow.

If I didn’t have children, what would I do? Would I make the most of my freedom, skipping happily from the theatre to the gym, filling my days with fulfilling work and wholesome voluntary activities? Or would I be swaying from one cocktail bar to the next, an inappropriately young man on each arm?

Probably neither. If I didn’t have children I imagine I would spend quite a lot of my time loafing about at home on my own, watching re-runs of Sex and the City and imagining everyone else was out doing something terribly sophisticated, like having drinks and chatting about literature with Stephen Fry. Which is how I pass many an evening already really.

So what about as a child, before parenthood was even conceivable – what did I imagine my adult life would be like then? I gave the question some serious thought. I actually have a very poor long-term memory. Goodness knows what happened to me as a child, but whatever it was has been successfully blocked out. Most of my childhood memories come via my sister, who even at four years younger than me seems to have a much clearer picture.

I do have an image in my head that has stuck with me though, from a time when I must have been imagining life as a grown up. It is a really only a flash, and is basically me dressed in a lovely suit and high heels, letting myself into an elegant, tidy and sparsely furnished flat. That’s it, but the sense I get from it is that I am just getting home from a long day in some kind of stressful but rewarding office based job, and am looking forward to kicking off my heels and relaxing with a nice hot bath.

All in all, not very helpful in terms of career planning. The opportunity to wear a nice pencil skirt and a good pair of shoes is clearly important though, which makes me question my current work at home status. Much of my time is spent in trousers with elasticated waists and I barely leave the house, let alone let myself back in with a sense of exhausted satisfaction.

Obviously I like writing, which is lucky, given my line of work, but I do miss the social interaction. Half the fun of work for me is striking up some kind of inappropriate relationship with a colleague, and skiving off to look at facebook or send personal emails doesn’t give the same sense of wicked pleasure when you work for yourself.

In the back of my head I nurture a dream of being offered my own column in the Guardian weekend magazine, one I’m sure is shared by one or two others, but I have learnt in the last year that work to me is about more than just the job you do. It is about the company you work for, the people you work with and the person you become once you get into that pencil skirt.

As much as I love the flexibility that working from home gives me, I miss the banter, the camaraderie, and the reason to get dressed in the morning. So maybe I’ll stick with my journalistic dreams, but I need them to involve an office. An office with lots of other interesting people in it. And maybe an on site cocktail bar and a view over Manhattan.

Hang on, my secretary has a call waiting. It’s Stephen – he has a new book he’d like to discuss over lunch. Sorry – must dash…

Photo credits: Markusram and Alpha de Centaure

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Like most women, I am a sucker for lotions and potions, so when a lovely lady from AVEENO® offered me some samples of their skincare range to try out I leapt at the chance. Free potions delivered to your door in an exciting parcel – what’s not to love?

I am cynical enough not to fall for most of the anti-aging propoganda that typifies the beauty market. I don’t believe for a minute that the latest pore-defining-pro-retinal-q10-derma-peptide face cream will transform my face into that of a 19-year-old swedish model, but I do love the idea that one little bottle or jar of cream has the potential to have some kind of life changing, age defying effect. I love the sense of promise and hope that you are effectively buying.

AVEENO® though aren’t claiming to turn back time, they are simply offering a range of natural and effective moisturisers, designed especially for women with dry skin. Now I do love a good moisturiser, especially at this time of the year when cold winds and central heating have combined to give me skin the texture of sandpaper.

I consider it a personal quest to find the moisturiser that will make my skin silky smooth and leave me smelling like I’ve been bathing in exotic perfumes in the middle of an orchard, overhung with boughs of ripe fruits, honeysuckle and jasmine. Not too much to ask I’m sure you’ll agree.

So with unrealistically high expectations I begin to smother myself daily with AVEENO®’s Moisturising Creamy Oil. It does sound promising doesn’t it? And actually it’s pretty good. It isn’t sticky, and it does leave my skin feeling soft. I particularly like the smell – it smells like I’m smearing myself in melted chocolate orange, which has to be a good thing.

I wish I could say the same about the hand cream scent wise, because it really is a great hand cream. I have a bit of trouble with hand cream normally, as I seem to have developed a habit of putting it on just before I am about to do something with my hands, like make a sandwich. AVEENO®’s hand cream does just what it promises though and absorbs quickly, leaving my hands able to butter bread and manhandle the cheese without getting it too sticky.

The down side is that the ‘unscented’ hand cream smells a bit like an old people’s home – that sort of sterile, overcooked veg, soiled trousers smell. It’s only very faint, and I do have a ridiculously perceptive sense of smell, but it is a bit of a shame. That said, I liked it despite the vague aroma of octogenarians, and would probably buy it again.

You may also want to check out the AVEENO® Discoverer programme, where you can sign up to a special website to become an AVEENO® Discoverer, recommend products to friends and relatives, as well as receive news and samples.

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